Both Hilton Gold and Diamond status come with the fantastic bonus of a free breakfast being included in your stay, regardless of your rate. Slightly cryptically, it’s technically a free “continental” breakfast, but typically you’re given full licence to roam the great expanse that is the full standard Hilton breakfast buffet.

hilton upgrade

Sounds good to me…

Yes it’s great, all part of the upgrade. However, bear that “continental breakfast” point in mind – it can come back to bite you slightly as part of the “curious Hilton upgrade downgrade” that this post is flagging.

hilton upgrade

Another benefit – lounge access

Next up is executive lounge access. Diamond Honors members will always get lounge access (if the hotel has a lounge), and Gold members will often get it if they’re upgraded to an Executive Room. That probably happens around 30% of the time at Hiltons in Europe. Less so in the US.

hilton upgrade

Again, if it happens, another upgrade. However, this is where the issue kicks in. The key point is this: the breakfast in the executive lounge is generally substantially inferior to the standard breakfast (in terms of the range of food, live cooking stations etc), and if you’re upgraded to Executive Lounge access, certain Hiltons may limit you to this breakfast only.

They can do this, because the stated position per your Gold/Diamond free breakfast entitlement is only that you’re entitled to a continental breakfast. That is covered by the offering in the exec lounge.

The results…

This all leads to a rather curious position:

  • Hilton Diamond members can effectively be downgraded to the lesser breakfast by virtue of their guaranteed lounge access
  • Hilton Gold members who are kindly upgraded, are actually downgraded in relation to their breakfast. If they are given exec lounge access they’re limited to the exec lounge breakfast, but if they are not, they get the full breakfast option!

In relation to the above, you might query whether Hilton would limit a non-upgraded Gold member just to the continental element of the breakfast buffet, which technically they could do (per the rules). Well clearly they are unlikely to escort you around the buffet, ensuring that you don’t add a sausage and beans to your croissant mountain, so it just isn’t really practical.

I do remember on one occasion there being a “Elite member free continental breakfast” table at a Hilton I went to, but that’s definitely the exception, not the norm. 

The upgrade downgrade good news

It’s not all bad breakfast news on your upgrade though. There are a few points to mention here:

  • Many Hiltons will let you have breakfast either in the lounge or at the main restaurant, even where you’re upgraded to exec lounge access (or benefit from it automatically via your Diamond status).
  • The exec lounge breakfast is generally pretty good anyway – you’ll tend to find a range of cereals, continental offerings like croissants etc and even modest fry-ups.
  • The exec lounge breakfast is also generally a lot quieter than the mayhem of the main buffet.
  • You are getting exec lounge access here with the benefits that offers, so it’s not a net loss, it’s just a slight downgrade following your upgrade – potentially!

I would say the more limited breakfast is a hit worth taking for the free benefits you get for being an exec lounge member, like free drinks, canapes etc. As such, as a Gold member I certainly would not refuse the exec lounge upgrade, just be aware that for all its benefits, you may take a hit on breakfast.


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