Most hotel loyalty programs guarantee award nights will be available whenever a “standard room” is available for sale. Ordinarily this policy works great. Who can argue with no blackout nights?
Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards apply when standard rooms are available at the Hyatt Daily Rate. Standard rooms are defined by each hotel and are not subject to blackout dates.
One potential issue is that some rooms have a view, are on an upgraded floor, or have other unique features that mean they are not, technically, standard rooms. The actual standard rooms can sell out more quickly, eliminating any award space. I don’t take issue with this.
And then there is the other possibility, when a hotel essentially makes up a new room category to limit the number of standard rooms for sale.
This is a rare but unfortunate situation. Hyatt fans have complained before about limited award space at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco on the Embarcadero, and today I’m telling you it is still happening after Jeff Zidell, VP of Gold Passport, tried to address a complaint by Gary Leff. At this hotel and others, the most obvious culprit is a so-called “business plan” room, which the hotel claims is an upgrade rather than a specific package.
The difference between an upgrade and a package is key. What does a business plan room get you?
- Free premium internet access.
- Complimentary breakfast in the restaurant (not the lounge).
- Free local and long-distance calls.
Beyond this, every single amenity in the room is the same as for a standard room, which you can still look up by visiting the hotel’s website directly and reading the room descriptions. The size and pictures of the room are the same, too! That’s not an upgrade.
Let’s put aside the fact that I get some benefits, like premium internet, included with my elite status. These are not relevant to the discussion. For example, I understand why I can’t book a Regency Club room at the standard room rate just because I have elite status and already get Regency Club access. The Regency Club rooms are on dedicated floors and, as a result, are physically distinct from standard rooms, which could be on any floor. Regency Club rooms are an upgrade.
But that’s not the case with internet access, breakfast, and phone calls. None of these are specific to any room. They’re complimentary benefits handed out at the front desk and removed from the bill. The business plan should more accurately be described as a package.
Reclassifying their room categories in this way — assigning a few extra benefits to an otherwise ordinary space — enables the hotel to can claim it has no standard rooms available, thus removing award inventory.
I explained my frustration to an agent on the phone and was told, simply, that “there are no standard rooms available” so that’s why I can’t book it on points. This is obvious. I was complaining about the reason there are no standard rooms available. I’ve scoured the hotel’s website, Hyatt’s booking page, and the rate description and can’t find anything tangible to explain why a business plan room deserves to be separated in this way.
In Gary’s case, there were clearly standard rooms available in other packages that included, for example, free parking. By not providing those same standard rooms under the daily rate, they were not eligible for award redemptions.
This isn’t quite what’s happened in my case: no standard rooms are available in any package or for the daily rate. But adding a few non-essential benefits to what is otherwise a standard room is still wrong, in my opinion, and not a policy that should be tolerated. These other benefits may be classified as an “upgrade” to exclude them from award space. In fact, they are no different from any other package such as the parking benefit that Gary described.