Exaggerated title aside, that was my gut reaction when I learned Saturday morning that there had been a gas explosion in the basement of the Hyatt Regency London The Churchill.
Fortunately the damage was much less than it could have been. About a dozen employees were injured, only four went to the hospital, and there were no fatalities. But while authorities inspect for structural damage to the building, the hotel will be closed until December 1. In other words, the hotel will be closed during the one week we’re in town for a Thanksgiving trip to London.
Hopefully the employees and the property will recover quickly and we can return soon. I’m still a little bummed it didn’t work out as we planned as this is Megan’s first trip to one of my favorite cities. But it does provide an interesting example of the great value of miles and points in responding to last-minute surprises. We’ve used them before when Megan missed her flight to Dallas and it was cheaper to redeem 12,500 miles than buy a walk-up fare for $600.
Our Original Plan A with a Preferred Program
Megan and I planned to stay at The Churchill for four nights. It was a great deal using Points + Cash and applying a Diamond Suite Upgrade. Only 50,000 points + £356 (about $557).
As a substitute for The Churchill, Hyatt wanted to put us up at the Andaz Liverpool Street. That’s not an acceptable substitute in my mind. I don’t think it’s as nice a property, and the location is much worse considering all of our tourism will be around Hyde Park and St. James Park. It would add 20 minutes each way on the tube and pretty much rule out stopping off in the room for an afternoon break from sightseeing.
Hyatt is in a tough spot here and doing the best it can. Since we’re on an award stay the only real option for them is another Hyatt. It would be nice if they could have accommodated us nearby, but I don’t consider it a reasonable expectation.
Switching to Plan B, Thanks to Diverse Account Balances
This close to arrival, many comparable room rates are $500 per night and up — about $1,500 more than I budgeted for this trip. But with miles and points I don’t have to choose between paying cash or accepting Hyatt’s replacement offer.
Instead I opened my AwardWallet account to see what other reward currencies were available.
Megan and I each have about a few Hilton HHonors points from upgrading some Hilton Amex cards that we otherwise never use, but rooms at comparable hotels start at 80,000 points each. Not enough for the whole stay.
Marriott has several good properties in London, including some near The Churchill. Though I don’t have any points with them I can easily make a transfer from Ultimate Rewards or United Airlines.
I could buy as many IHG Rewards points as I want for just 0.7 cents each, but I’m not impressed with my options.
Starwood was my original pick for this trip. But the award rates all looked too high compared to the somewhat mixed reviews I’d heard about the hotels. And there was no Cash + Points availability to temper those numbers.
In the end, I used Megan’s Hilton points to book two Points & Money awards for our first two nights at the new Conrad St. James, near Parliament. It isn’t quite as convenient as The Churchill — and we’ll have to check out of the hotel before we actually visit Parliament on Saturday — but it has received some good initial reviews and is still much better located than the Andaz. Total cost was 64,000 points and £197.
The second two nights were tougher. We couldn’t stay at the Conrad using my own account because no Points & Money awards were available — and I’m not going to buy the extra points for the insane price quoted.
I chose the Le Meridien for now. No award space was visible online, but a call to SPG was able to secure two nights in a Deluxe room for 21,500 points per night vs. the normal 20,000 points for a standard room. It’s worth knowing that Starwood has some very reasonable prices for some of its premium room awards that you can only get if you call in. I was also able to apply two of my Suite Night Awards.
Or Could We Try Plan C and Transfer Points?
I chose not to transfer Marriott Rewards points from United or Chase. Those other accounts are just two valuable. I see a 1-to-1 transfer to Marriott as a needless devaluation. But I did come up with another option that might be more palatable than Plan B.
My dad’s girlfriend has a ton of Marriott Rewards points, and I have a ton of Hyatt Gold Passport points. Neither program allows people to transfer points to other accounts outright, but you can transfer points to another person in conjunction with an award reservation. (See rules from Hyatt and Marriott.) The points will be moved and the award booked immediately, without any of the normal transfer fees.
Unfortunately, Marriott only allows transfers between spouses or domestic partners. That kills Plan C for us, but it would have worked out nicely for reasons concerning elite status.
She’s losing her Platinum status with Marriott this year, while my dad is gaining Diamond status with Hyatt. Status confers extra value to points because many properties include the usual perks like upgrades and free breakfast. So this would be a great opportunity for her to offload some Marriott points to me while I turn around and give my dad something more useful in return.