Women-only floor at Danish airport hotel ruled illegal

Bella Sky Hotel - copenhagen

A ruling by a Danish court has put an end to the women-only floor at the Bella Sky Hotel, located near the Copenhagen Airport.

The rooms will stay, but now men will be allowed to reserve a spot on the hotel’s secure-access Bella Donna floor, where rooms cost about $28 extra and include amenities such as large towels, international women’s magazines, upgraded beauty products and a minibar that the hotel website boasts is stocked “with smoothies and champagne instead of potato chips and beer.”

“We had no idea this product could be remotely illegal,” said Allan Agerholm, CEO of the company that owns Bella Sky Hotel. “It is a business product we created to differentiate our hotel from others. This is a petty case that should have never been brought. It detracts from real discrimination issues happening in our society.”

Last Friday, a court ruled that even though the hotel had two ladies-style rooms elsewhere in the hotel bookable by men, the women’s-only floor was indeed discriminatory.

The hotel has opted to keep the Bella Dona floor intact, but open it to men and women.

“If for some reason a male guest should find it interesting to stay there in the pink environment, they are welcome to do so,” said Agerholm.

When the 812-room, two-tower hotel opened in spring 2011, the 20 upgraded rooms on the secure-access “Bella Donna” floor were set aside for women only, with feminine touches and amenities ranging from large dressing mirrors to a minibar stocked with smoothies, wine and high quality chocolate.

Bella Sky Hotel - Bella Donna Room

But shortly after the hotel opened, two men complained about the women-only floor to the Danish Board of Equal Treatment, which ruled the floor was gender discriminatory and illegal. Because the board had no authority to sanction, Bella Sky kept the Bella Donna floor women-only and appealed to the Eastern High Court in Copenhagen.

While not very common, some hotels in the United States and elsewhere continue to offer women-only floors, including the Hamilton Crowne Plaza in Washington, D.C., and the Crowne Plaza in Bloomington, Minn.

“Our ladies floor, where we charge a $20 premium, is usually 85 percent occupied or sold out Monday through Thursday and is very popular with female corporate travelers,” said Charlie LaMont, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Bloomington. “Some like the amenities, but for most, it’s the security of the secure-access floor,” he said.

The 10 rooms on the 10th floor of the 127-room Ellis Hotel in downtown Atlanta are set aside for women. In addition to private-access entry, the rooms include upgraded amenities, slippers and use of curling iron and a flat iron.

The hotel charges an added fee of $20 for the rooms, “which are most popular with the female corporate traveler,” said Tom LaVaccare, director of sales and marketing. “It’s a privacy issue, not necessarily a security issue,” he said, “but we’re working on adding more amenities.”

LaVacarre said no male customer has ever complained about being excluded but “if they wanted to be on a floor just for men, we could accommodate that.”

For several years, the Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, has offered 18 Orchid Rooms on a “women-preferred” floor with amenities such as curling irons, flat irons, high-powered hair driers, upgraded Aveda products, satin-padded hangers, nylons and other items at no extra charge.

The rooms were so popular that the hotel recently added a second floor of rooms with the same amenities, and men aren’t excluded from those floors, they rarely book there, General Manager Lisa Jackson said.

( My story about hotels with women-only floors first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior in a slightly different version.)