Hyatt announced two improvements to its Gold Passport program today that make me glad I continue to be a top-tier Diamond member. I recognize that some people are more interested in using miles or points to travel on a budget, but if you can balance that with paying out-of-pocket, elite status can still be a valuable way to extend those points’ value.
Your Family Will Be Hyatt’s Guests of Honor
First up, Hyatt is announcing a new benefit it calls “Guest of Honor.” This is exclusive to its Diamond members and will be offered beginning March 1. It applies whenever a member redeems Gold Passport points for a free night award (i.e., all points, not Points + Cash) for a family member or friend. The hotel will extend all your Diamond benefits to that guest even if you aren’t traveling with them. (But only those offered at the hotel.)
- Enjoy the best room available upon arrival, excluding suites.
- Receive exclusive access to the Regency Club or Grand Club lounge featuring complimentary continental breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres. Enjoy daily complimentary full breakfast in hotels without a club lounge.
- Receive a special welcome point bonus or food and beverage amenity during each stay.
- Receive a nightly room refresh.
- Starting February 14, stay connected with complimentary premium Internet access where available.
- Expedite check-in at a dedicated area for elite members.
- Extend your stay until 4:00 p.m. with a late check out request.
This is relatively unique in the travel loyalty industry. Many hotel loyalty programs have specific rules that say elite benefits are only provided to that member, even if you have multiple rooms reserved. Programs sometimes let you earn elite stay credit for more than one room — Hyatt isn’t one of them — but benefits are still limited (in theory), to the room in which the member is staying.
Now Hyatt is saying you don’t even have to be in the same state. Rather, you earned those points in the course of earning your Diamond status. When you redeem them, those benefits of status should follow. Hyatt will treat your loved ones with the same courtesy that they provide you on your visits.
When Jeff Zidell, VP of Gold Passport, was telling me about this new benefit on the phone yesterday, my mind immediately went to United Airlines. The airline used to do something similar: use your miles to book a flight for another person but leave the MileagePlus number blank in the passenger details, and all your benefits would carry over. These included priority access and free checked baggage. When I booked these tickets for friends and family they would comment on how much more they enjoyed the trip compared to the typical flying experience.
United doesn’t do this anymore, but I still think it is a great way to demonstrate the value of brand loyalty without going as far as a status match. My family travel infrequently without me and used to think my hobby was crazy. They still think it’s too much effort, but a taste of being a Premier 1K made them realize why I do this. The same might happen when I book a hotel stay for them and they finally have a place to put their giraffe.
How do I take advantage of this benefit?
Although free night awards can be booked online, you must book by phone in order ensure your friend or family member will be treated as a Guest of Honor. A notation will be added to the record. Call 1-800-400-2261 or the nearest Worldwide Reservation Center.
Who earns points on incidental costs?
Although free night awards don’t have a cost, there may be room charges or other fees. Any Gold Passport points for these will be awarded to the actual guest at the usual rate, not to the member who booked the room. Your Gold Passport number will not be included in the reservation.
What if we’re both staying at the hotel?
If you book a paid stay so you can earn credit toward elite status, you might still want to use points to book an award stay for family members. You’ll still receive your Diamond benefits, and the Guest of Honor will receive his or her Diamond benefits.
More Benefits! Get Two Free United Club Passes
In addition to sharing your elite status with a friend when they travel without you, Hyatt is making it easier to enjoy your benefits when you’re somewhere other than a Hyatt hotel. Every Diamond member will receive two United Club passes good for one-time use. It’s like taking the Regency Club with you to the airport.
I was a little confused why Hyatt chose to offer passes for the United Club since United has an existing partnership with Marriott. But it does make sense because they share the same credit card issuer and have other relationships.
I have a Platinum Card from American Express, a Priority Pass Card, and an Admirals Club membership. That covers just about everything except the United Club, which is fine because I don’t fly on United anymore. But there are some who aren’t so picky, and even I find myself in airports where the United Club is all they have, or at least all that’s convenient. Two day passes could be enough for the year. And for those who have never purchased lounge access before, they’re a nice treat for a special trip.
If you really don’t think you’ll use them, they will come in the form of paper certificates and are fully transferrable.
Free Internet Access for Everyone
Don’t forget that Hyatt is already launching a new benefit for all its guests — Diamond status, Platinum status, no status at all. You don’t even need Gold Passport membership. Anyone who books a Hyatt hotel stay through any website or portal will be entitled to complimentary Internet access beginning February 14. This is one of the most liberal free WiFi policies out there, especially when looking at full service brands. A variety of hotels have had similar policies for years or announced recently, but they often have some kind of catch. This one doesn’t.
If you already have Platinum or Diamond status, one of the benefits was free Internet access. To make up for that, elite members will not be entitled to free premium access. Those higher speeds should hopefully make the browsing experience much better.
All-in-all this is great news from Hyatt!