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When it comes to award night availability, the World of Hyatt rules are simple – if a property is selling an entry-level room for cash, that same room must also be made available for award bookings. This is part of the ‘no blackout dates’ policy enshrined in the World of Hyatt terms and conditions and it’s one of the things that a lot of us really love about Hyatt’s loyalty program.
Unfortunately, over recent years, a number of Hyatt properties have garnered a reputation for playing around with this rule (or ignoring it completely) and effectively blocking World of Hyatt members from booking awards that they should be able to book.
Properties like Hyatt Regency Jersey City, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, the Andaz Maui and the Andaz West Hollywood have all been guilty of playing around with this key World of Hyatt rule at one point or another and now it looks like we can add the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill to that list as well.
How the Churchill appears to be ignoring award availability rules
A few weeks ago, I was on the Hyatt website hoping to book the Churchill for a couple of nights this summer and because the room rates in London are currently astronomically high, I was hoping to book a room using World of Hyatt points.
Unfortunately, my search at the Churchill revealed that for the dates I was hoping to stay, there was no award availability.
With no award bookings on offer and despite knowing that the Churchill was probably charging cash rates that were far in excess of what I would be comfortable paying, I decided to see how amusingly ridiculous the cash rates were for my chosen dates… just out of interest.
This is part what the search revealed:
I wasn’t particularly surprised to see the Churchill charging £696 (~$860) per night as that’s just how ridiculous some London prices have now become, but I was more than a little surprised to be offered a “1 King Bed” or “2 Twin Beds” because I was pretty sure that those are entry-level room categories at the Churchill.
Here’s what you’ll see if you head over to the Churchill’s website and look up the types of room (excluding suites) that the property offers:
From what this page displays, it’s hard to reach any other conclusion than the one that says that either the “1 King Bed” category or the “2 Twin Beds” category is the entry level category at this property (perhaps both are entry level categories), and yet the Churchill was very clearly not offering award availability on the dates when these rooms were bookable with cash.
Whichever way you look at it, that appears to be a clear breach of the World of Hyatt rule that states that where an entry level room can be booked for cash, it must also be made available for award bookings.
After noting this, I emailed my Hyatt Concierge and asked her to find out what the Churchill was playing at and to ask the Churchill to release its entry level rooms for award bookings.
It was at this point that things got a little strange because at the same time that my concierge confirmed that the Churchill was not responding to her emails, she also wrote this:
“Unfortunately we don’t show the standard rooms in our system so we can’t do anything on our side, if we did see it we’d be able to but because it is only showing standard room at a rate on the website and not at rate for us, our hands are tied”
What followed was a two week email exchange during which time I never got a satisfactory answer as to how Hyatt.com could show availability that the concierge team couldn’t see, and during which time the Churchill never (apparently) responded to the concierge’s messages.
Approximately 18 days after I first raised this as an issue, the 1 King Bed and 2 Twin Beds options disappeared from Hyatt.com and that was the end of that. Awards were never opened up.
Overall, this was a disappointing experience and one which left me wondering if, going forward, there was any point in raising issues such as this one with the concierge team?
Why bother when it seems like (a) hotels can choose to simply ignore a concierge, (b) the concierge team doesn’t appear to have any way to escalate an issue (or doesn’t want to escalate an issue) if they’re being ignored by a property, and (c) the concierge team doesn’t have access to the same reservations system that the rest of the world has access to (what’s that about?)
It also left me wondering if this is more evidence of the “Bonvoyification” of Hyatt.
Over recent years, we’ve become accustomed to Marriott caring a lot more about the wishes and feelings of hotel owners rather than the guests that it sends to those owners so it has been nice to have the relatively safe sanctuary of the World of Hyatt program where the same didn’t seem to be happening.
Over recent months, however, I’ve read an increasing number of reports (e.g. on Flyertalk) that appear to suggest that we’re seeing more Hyatt properties choosing to play fast and loose with certain elements of the World of Hyatt program, and where in the past someone at Hyatt usually stepped in to pull the property back into line, that appears to be happening less and less now.
Obviously, this could be just my perception of how things are and Hyatt may not be going any easier on rogue properties than it was two or three years ago… but perceptions can matter.
If I’m starting to think that Hyatt is letting properties get away with more and more then there’s a good chance that quite a few others are feeling the same way, and as good as the World of Hyatt program may be, Hyatt isn’t big enough to be able to afford to be as uninterested as the likes of Marriott, Hilton and IHG can be when it comes to what guests’ perceptions are.
For a lot of people, the World of Hyatt is a key differentiator when it comes to choosing which hotels to book and it’s a key reason why they choose Hyatt over the larger chains, so if Hyatt takes its eye off the ball and allows properties to dilute what makes the World of Hyatt special, it won’t be long before the exodus will begin.