In November 2014 SPG launched its Keyless program, which enables guests to bypass the front desk and head directly to their room, and replaces those easily demagnetized keycards with your smartphone. It’s a great idea in theory, although reports online are a bit mixed as to its usefulness (see below)
Because there’s an ongoing promotion to get 2,500 bonus Starwood points when you use SPG Keyless and pay with an AMEX card (valid until 29 Feb 16), I managed to work in 1 night at the Aloft Abu Dhabi on my current business trip.
Apart from an alarming report about bedbugs that came up a few days before check in, I was quite looking forward to my stay. I’d been to this property before and I find that they have pretty good platinum recognition. I’ve always gotten a suite upgrade, free breakfast along with the 250 starpoints and a couple of drinks vouchers for each day of stay.
SPG Keyless sends you an alert 24 hours before your check in time on the SPG app.
Once you accept it, you’re prompted to verify your details
And select your arrival time & payment method (remember you need to pay with an AMEX if you want the bonus points)
And then a confirmation
So I waited for the alert.
I made it to the hotel and still I hadn’t got any details about my room. In the end I had to go to the front desk and ask them.
It turned out that they had to do document verification, as required by law, which means that even if you use SPG Keyless you still have to go to the front desk to check in. I understand the legal requirement, but that kind of defeated the purpose.
While waiting I walked around the lobby. The decor is standard Aloft, and I think it says somewhere in the brand manual that you need to have one or two “fun” items in the lobby to remind people how hip you are. Aloft Abu Dhabi chose to go with a pool table
I told the staff I wanted to use Keyless. Fortunately they seemed to be well trained on such requests (they even had a mockup of a door handle stored behind the counter to let you test your key out) and got me going seamlessly. The screen on my SPG app changed to this
Keyless worked flawlessly for me, and I had a bit of a silly smile on my face as I held up my phone to the door and heard the unlock sound. Who needs hoverboards and flying cars when you can unlock your door with your phone?
You do need to have Bluetooth on for it to work though, but given that Bluetooth is so low-energy these days there’s really no harm keeping it on all the time.
I was upgraded to an Aloft suite, which is somewhat larger than the standard room. Most of the added space goes into that nook in teh corner with the sofa and minibar area
The minibar had 2 complimentary bottles of water (2 more in the loo) as well as coffee and tea
Big writing desk with a view of the ADNOC centre. I like that this desk came with all the usual power outlets and ports. Apparently removing desks from hotel rooms has become a trend, because Millennials. But hopefully that won’t catch on, because who the hell wants a room without a desk?
Aloft is marketed as a “vision of W Hotels” and you can see the resemblance in some ways. I think of Aloft as sort of a “budget W”, and while some people find the brand as a whole trying too hard to be cool, I like that they’ve taken on some of the W touches like Bliss branded toiletries
I stayed at the Aloft Bangkok in early Jan and they were using some generic no-brand toiletries, so it’s good to know that some of the Alofts are still sticking to the standard stuff.
What I really appreciate about the room is that instead of whimpy curtains that flop around and never seem to fully close, this Aloft had blinds that descend all the way to the bottom. This is all the more important in a place like Abu Dhabi where the morning sun can be fierce.
There was a pool on the 5th floor. I braved a few laps the next morning but it was 20 degrees and very windy, so I gave up after a few laps.
Didn’t get photos of the breakfast, but it was fairly standard fare.
Aloft Abu Dhabi used to be a category 2 property but somewhere along the line became category 3. That’s a pity, because at 3,000/4,000 points a night it’s a steal. 7,000 points is a bit harder to justify, given how far it is away from all the action in Abu Dhabi (I think that’s the first time anyone has ever used the words “action” and “Abu Dhabi” together)
But job done, 2,500 bonus starpoints secured and 1 more night towards the 50. My concern is that so far this year I only have 25 nights planned. I’ll need to hope for another big push to get my requalification done. To put things in perspective, in 2015 I requalified in Feb, thanks to a bunch of colleagues who didn’t care about points (fools!) and let me book their rooms for them (SPG lets you earn credit for up to 3 rooms per stay) for a monthlong stay.
If you want to take advantage of the 2,500 point promotion, the closest property to Singapore with SPG Keyless is…. the W Sentosa. But do make it a point to check against this list before you decide on your next hotel- you might be able to get a little more out of your stay.