These Hotels Charge Extra for Air Conditioning

“London hotel rooms for $85 a night!” Nice, but you’ll get what you pay for, and that doesn’t include air conditioning. Or towels. Or in-room TV.

“London hotel rooms for $85 a night!” or “These hotels charge extra for towels and air conditioning.” Two possible headlines, one hotel.

The hotel in question is one of 24 Tune hotels, 12 in Malaysia, eight in the U.K. (five of which are in London), two in Indonesia, and one in both Australia and India.

Tune is headquartered in Malaysia, and is owned by an investment group headed by Tony Fernandes, founder of discount airline AirAsia. That connection is key, as it explains the locations of Tune hotels, and why we can’t expect to see Tune properties in the U.S. anytime soon, at least until AirAsia expands its network to include flights across the Pacific.

The AirAsia connection also sheds light on the Tune hotels business model, which features rock-bottom published prices but charges extra for services normally included in the nightly rate. If you’re not familiar with AirAsia, think Spirit or Ryanair.

What is included in the Tune basic rate is decidedly bare bones:

  • No in-room phone, mini-bar, or coffee maker
  • Maid service every three days; daily service extra
  • Windows? “Some rooms have windows and some rooms do not.”
  • Rates are non-refundable
  • Air conditioning costs extra
  • Towels cost extra
  • Internet access costs extra
  • In-room TV costs extra

Tune boasts a “5-star sleeping experience at a 1-star price,” which is a value proposition that seems bound to resonate with budget-minded travelers. But the concept apparently hasn’t been an unqualified success. A promotional video on the company’s website claims 45 Tune properties as of July 2014, whereas there are only 24 hotels currently listed in the Tune network. A shrinking roster is hardly the sign of a healthy hotel chain.

Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing approach, which is bound to proliferate, perhaps as ultra-low-cost brands offered by the major chains. While ultra-budget hotels are likely less profitable than higher-end hotels, and would cannibalize sales from properties with slightly higher price points, the pressure to cover the entire price spectrum could force the likes of Hilton and Marriott to set such concerns aside and roll out a new crop of bottom-tier brands.

Personally, for most of my trips, a hotel is just a place to sleep. So a good mattress and a quiet room are the most important requirements. Since I’m paying out-of-pocket, I’d welcome the opportunity to save more by consuming less. And while I might bristle at the prospect of spending a couple of hours shoehorned into a Spirit seat with 28-inch pitch, I have no such reservations about spending a night in a tiny hotel room. I suspect I’m not alone.

We may never see Tune hotels in the U.S., but it’s a safe bet that we will see Tune-like hotels. And soon.

Reader Reality Check

Would you patronize ultra-budget hotels with a-la-carte pricing?

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By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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