Why You Can Pick Your Airplane Seat but Not Your Hotel Room

Thanks to SeatGuru you can pick where you want to sit on the plane, so why can't you pick your hotel room beyond the standard smoking or non-smoking choice? It's something I never thought about until discovering Room 77, but it's an interesting question. If the technology is available for airplanes, why not also hotels?

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Yes, you can pay more for a certain room type, but I'm talking about picking the best room for the price you pay, basically the equivalent of choosing the window seat over the middle in economy class.

And, while it's not a make or break feature in booking your vacation, it does seem like a nice option to have. So, here's why in 2016 (for the most part) you can't choose your room, and what two companies are doing to change that.

The Brands Involved

Room 77, which licensed its technology to Google two years ago, is a metasearch engine that tries to find the best price at the best hotel, and lets you pick the best type of room available. You can make your decision based on images available of a room's view, surroundings, and preference list at properties. There are even "Insider Tips from the Hotel" which give you advice, like which floors offer the best views, or which side of the hotel is quieter. While it doesn't guarantee you will be checked into an exact, specific room of your choosing, it does send your request of room preference to the hotel.    


Room 77

Room 77 Search Page

Hilton is also exploring this technology through their Hilton HHonors program. The mobile app allows members to chose the exact room they want, one day before their check-in date. This feature is available at the majority of their properties worldwide. And now, thanks to a partnership with Google Maps, you can see what view each room has and which rooms offer digital check-in—which is on a first-come, first-served basis.

So things are looking up for those who want this feature when booking travel. And it seems like people do. According to Skift, Hilton guests have used this feature over 13 million times.

Why Picking Your Room Isn't an Option Everywhere, Yet

Unlike seats on a plane, hotel rooms operate on a much more variable scale. Certain people have late check-out, others have early check-in, the list goes on. On top of this, the length of stay varies by traveler, unlike a flight, and many guests will have last-minute requests—which is expected in the hotel industry.

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Another major issue is that there is no universal property management system. This means it's much more difficult for booking sites to know when and which rooms are available for bookings. On top of this, the technology to make this possible requires all hotel layouts be uploaded into a system, as well as images and lists of features in certain rooms. Then there is the integration between people who are checking-in normally by getting assigned a room at the front desk verses people selecting a room online.

Will It Ever Be Possible?

We'll just have to wait and see. With so many hotel mergers and consolidation, there is potential for a universal property management system, or at least a more widely used one. This would theoretically make it easier to have a digital room selection system. Clearly the interest is there, so in time we could see this feature more widespread.

You Tell Us: Would you like to be able to pick out your specific hotel room? If so, would you pay extra?

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Read the original story: Why You Can Pick Your Airplane Seat but Not Your Hotel Room by Ashley Rossi, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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