Holiday Inn Express breakfast – they can no longer call it 'free'!

When is a free breakfast not a free breakfast?

This is not a trick question!

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has been pondering this question.  Holiday Inn Express has always advertised that you receive a ‘free’ breakfast when you stay there.  After a recent TV commercial aired, three people with probably too much time on their hands made a formal complaint.

HIX Alcorcon

Holiday Inn Express says that, since the price of your room is the same whether or not you eat breakfast in the morning, your breakfast is indeed free.

The ASA disagrees.

It believes that, since you cannot book a room without breakfast, you are essentially booking a package.  The price you pay is for room and breakfast.  The breakfast is therefore not free.

As the ASA statement says:  “we concluded that the claims “we give you a free breakfast” and “free breakfast” were misleading.”  Holiday Inn Express is now banned from using the word ‘free’ to describe its breakfast in the UK.  Your room is now ‘inclusive of breakfast’.

Words fail.

You can read more on the Daily Mail website here.

(To see our complete list of all current hotel promotions for the major chains, click here to visit our ‘Hotel Promos’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Report your American Express cancellation counter-offers!
2000 Clubcard points (4800 Avios) with Virgin Media packages
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Col A-B says:

    And were 2 of those 3 complainants working for Travelodge & Premier Inn?!

  2. Erico1875 says:

    Welcome to the Soviet Republic of Great Britain.
    Vee vill make sure your terminology is correct or vee vill shut you down.

  3. Frenske says:

    Well fair is fair. You must be bonkers to believe that Holiday Inn gives you breakfast for free. It is not a charity organization. The costs of the breakfast is included in the price of the room. A car dealer cannot advertise a car that comes with free brakes.

    • They would say – most hotels charge for brekky but we don’t, therefore it is acceptable to call it ‘free’ because the industry norm is that you pay.

    • I would argue, when a firm gives you something that competitors do not, you can describe it as ‘free’., as I saw this morning, has ‘free wi-fi’ as a search option which presumably should go as well.

      Problem is that ‘complementary’ means the same as free as as I am concerned. You would need to go to ‘internet included’.

      The issue is that this can backfire. As BA cannot advertise ‘free drinks and snacks’ it makes it more likely they will start to charge as it does not give them a marketing advantage.

  4. and every room comes with a free bed

  5. For a bowl of cereal and a cuppa it’s great. But for anything hot it’s dreadful. I don’t care if that sounds snobby but it’s dire!

    • Well that depends on the exact hotel. Also the country.

      • I have never expericned / seen anything I would want to eat thats hot in the UK HIX……

  6. Ralph says:

    Holiday Inn Express, Page, Az, breakfast: bagels, cream cheese, bread, jams, cereals, pancakes, American sausage (mmm) boiled eggs, muffins, tea, coffee. Anyone that wants anything more on a road trip is too fussy. Oh and in the afternoon three is coffee on tap, muffins and cookies – all free. Whilst there, check out Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell and the Antelope Slot Canyons.

  7. This is ridiculous. Of course, nothing is free. Next, all the companies who are doing the ‘free’ thing has to change the word to something else. People who are using ‘complimentary’ also will have to do the same. How about banks which advertise free ATM withdrawals for all account holders ? Since one cannot open accounts which charge for ATM withdrawals, it;s not free indeed.

  8. Clive J says:

    I’m going to complain to the ASA about HIX’s use of the phrase ‘The Great Room’ to indicate where the free breakfast is served. I am at HIX Stevenage today and The Great Room is about the size of a double garage.

  9. What's the Point says:

    HI Express MK – I wish they did charge for breakfast. When I have the misfortune for staying there, optionally skipping the “breakfast” as I do would save my company money!

    • stay in the regular HI. the breakfast is good and if the company is paying……..

  10. Lady London says:

    It’s apologies for a decent breakfast like that, that would mean the beancounters at my company would deny me the opportunity to claim for a decent breakfast taken outside the hotel on the basis that “breakfast” is provided at the hotel.

    What HIX call a breakfast seems to be even worse of a starch overload in most of their places in the US and any “protein” provided is often of extremely doubtful origin.

    Luckily I rarely eat breakfast anyway.

  11. I’m in favour of this. Free should be for when you get a special benefit for which you’d regularly have to pay. Of course HI Express breakfasts aren’t free – they’re included in the room rate – there are no rates without breakfast. I note in the ruling that IHG was told previously they could only use the term for a limited time, perhaps their marketing weasels should have listened.

  12. Copied from the BA website:
    “complimentary drinks and snacks on every flight”

    That’s the same so it should be banned right? I mean we’re all paying for the food and drink in the ticket.

    Buy one get one free at the supermarket – your paying for the second when you buy the first.

    About the only genuinely ‘free’ thing I can remember is a copy of the sun newspaper that got pushed through the door the other week.

    It’s absolutely in the customers interest to advertise “free breakfast” as I personally find the sneaky was hotels try to advertise cheap rates then add on extra’s very annoying – with HIX you know exactly what your getting.

  13. David says:

    I don’t think its fair to call out the ASA like this. In a land where there is no concept of good faith or fair dealing they are certainly trying to further consumer rights as best as they can. The ASA does very good work and I have taken numerous complaints regarding airlines which were upheld by the Council.

    • I agree, they do stop a lot of misleading stuff. I struggle with this one though. As I wrote above, if a company offers something at no cost which its competitors DO generally charge for then I think you should be able to call it ‘free’.

      The irony is that, if they start listing two options on their website – £75 with no breakfast or £75 WITH breakfast – they will be the laughing stock of the industry but the ASA would then let them say that breakfast is free.

      • mrtibbs1999 says:

        The brekkie isn’t free. It’s just that having stayed in so many hotels the inhabitants of this website are used to having to pay for it. The breakfast is complimentary, sure: but free, it ain’t.

  14. HIDDY says:

    No big deal really as advertising it as ‘breakfast always included’ is just as good.
    The inclusive breakfast has always swayed me into booking a HIX over a HI or other branded hotel of the same category. Half decent coffee,cereal,yoghurt,pastries, fruit and a couple of hot items is all I need in the morning. The HIX in YVR even had help yourself coffee and cinnamon buns or cookies available all day in the lobby.

  15. They should build an advertising campaign around this. I did not realise that breakfast was fre…. included in the room rate as standard. They could actually make everyone aware of this with a capaign that focuses on the pedantry of this particular complaint.

    “We do not charge you for breakfast. When you pay £x for a room, you can have breakfast too. Both of you. For no more money. We won’t charge you.”
    “Free breakfast! Great!”
    “No, it’s not free. We are not allowed to call it free. To repeat, we do NOT offer a free breakfast”.
    “So how much extra does breakfast cost then?”
    “Is it free then?”
    “But it used to be free?? So what’s changed?”

    I actually agree with accuracy in language generally, but this is daft. I supose a truly “free breakfast” would be available to everyone including people not actually staying at the hotel, but you have to feel for Holiday Inn here – it’s not like they are trying to pull a fast one.

    • David says:

      As HIDDY says many forms of accommodation offer “free” breakfast because its not unbundled. Think bed & breakfasts. Many small hotels don’t have any form of room only. Hence breakfast “included” is more accurate than free, because its not free, its included.

      • Maybe they should introduce a 1p” charge” for the breakfast?

        I’m sure “Breakfast for a penny” would work just as well for a marketing slogan & ASA surely wouldn’t have any complaints over that one?

    • Fenny says:

      I agree. When I stayed at the Hampton at LGW last month, a customer asked at check in how much breakfast was. The desk clerk said that breakfast was always included in the price at Hamptons. Customer was suitably pleased, as they’d had to pay some huge fee for breakfast elsewhere that day.

      Unless there’s somewhere close by that does suitable food and drink, I mentally factor in a tenner a night for the price of breakfast. Where it’s included in the price, it’s a lot easier than trying to find where the breakfast price is actually shown and add it in for comparisons.

      • £10? more like £20 these days all of which is a royal rip off

        • Fenny says:

          Depends on the hotel. Got charged Eu 19.50 for breakfast at the Hilton in Innsbruck, when I was on an inclusive rate. Wasn’t overly impressed, as it took several emails to get it refunded.

  16. squills says:

    Skip breakfast, it’s good for your heart.

    All this guff about most important meal of the day is just wind 😉

    Starved mice live twice as long as well-fed mice.