Hyatt Resorts That Play Games with Award Availability
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One of my very favorite hotel loyalty programs is the World of Hyatt. Their points are easy to earn (thanks, Chase Ultimate Rewards!), the award chart is fair and pretty consistent, their customer service is generally good, and many of their resorts are gorgeous, family-friendly, fantastic backdrops for having fun while making memories.
Most of the Hyatt properties are very good about following the program rules of making standard rooms available on points when they are available for sale with cash, even during peak seasons. However, a couple of bad apples who are playing games with award availability through a variety of means put a cloud over the whole bunch. Throughout the years, various Hyatt properties have taken turns being the bad apple who plays with standard award availability. A few Hyatt properties that come to mind as being guilty of playing with standard award room types and availability over the years are Hyatt Lost Pines, Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, Olive 8 in Seattle, and the Park Hyatt New York. However, all of those properties reversed course and can now be booked using Hyatt points most of the time.
Hyatt properties that seem to be blocking award availability
Sadly, whereas those properties are currently pretty available on points, there are two other very desireable Hyatt resort properties that are now being charged with blocking standard award availability most of the time. The first, and longest term, suspect of award availability shenanigans is the Andaz Maui. This property is actually owned by Hyatt, but does not have a great track record of wanting to keep Hyatt elites and award travelers happy.
We were able to book a spring break trip to the Andaz Maui using points for last year by booking exactly 13 months in advance when the schedule first opened, but that strategy no longer works. About a year ago, others were able to book award nights at this hotel if they booked at least a week-long stay. That strategy no longer works. Update: Try booking for eight nights....
I randomly checked about 20 dates today and did not find award availability on any one date between tonight and 13 months from now, although @HyattConcierge pointed out that February 21, 2019, has award availability, so there is at least one random date available.
However, even when those exact same room descriptions with no specified view are for sale on other dates, they are still not reliably available with points. If you want to see this phenomenon for yourself, check out March 20, 2019 where no specified view rooms are available for sale with cash, but not points.
That is completely unacceptable in my mind as those are standard rooms by every logical definition I can come up with. I have a follow-up question Hyatt about why that room type is available some dates (or at least on one date) with cash, but not points. So far I am being told it is because the date is available is a parking lot view, but it doesn't actually state that on the website, so I'm not sure how customers can distinguish between room types. They can obviously do whatever they want with award program rules, but if you are going to have rules, properties should follow them so that loyalty members can know what to expect. If you are going to have blackout dates or properties that basically don't accept points, then just state that and let folks vote with their wallets.
While Andaz Maui is by far the most egregious of the Hyatt award availability blocking suspects, unfortunately, it seems that the Hyatt Regency Aruba has been learning from them. This property is also owned by Hyatt and it is especially unfortunate for families that availability here has shrunk because the Aruba property is family-friendly and on a perfect stretch of beach.
A few weeks ago, the Hyatt Regency Aruba had almost no award rooms available using points, but after View from the Wing wrote about the phenomenon, some pockets of dates do now have award availability. I see some dates this spring with either a King Bed with a Garden View for Two Queen Beds and no specified view available using 25,000 Hyatt points per night. This is great as paid rates in this timeframe can be close to $600 per night!
However, once summer arrives, the award availability dries up completely even though paid rates in the summer can be just 1/3 of the cost of travel in the spring. The award availability problem does not end when summer is over as there is no award availability that I can find in my random date searches outside of the next couple of months. In fact, even when there are rooms with a "garden view" available for sale, they are not always available with points. We aren't talking about a pool view, or ocean view, but even just a generic "garden view" room is not always available with points. Unless you are planning a close-in trip in the next few months, you basically cannot currently use your Hyatt points or award nights at the Hyatt Regency Aruba.
How to beat Hyatt award availability shenanigans
While you probably can't convince Hyatt directly to change policies (though Lord knows I am trying), you can still beat their shenanigans in some ways. With the Hyatt Regency Aruba, in the summer, paid rates are often only around $250 per night. At that rate, frankly, you are better off not using 25,000 Hyatt points since a one cent per point return is not ideal. If you are going for four nights, you would be better off getting the fourth-night free by booking through the Citi Prestige or using some fixed value points through the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or similar to cover your room expenses. Heck, you could even use Chase Ultimate Reward points from the Chase Sapphire Reserve at 1.5 cents each to secure a room for less than 25,000 points per night.
The downside of using your Ultimate Rewards points to book through Chase instead of transferring them to book directly with Hyatt is you don't get the benefits of booking direct, and you will have to pay the high taxes and resort fee that you avoid when booking an award night with Hyatt. Still, at least you then don't have to mess with the ever-changing standard room availability semantics and can book your trip when you want to travel. Or, you can simply book a different resort completely such as the nearby Hilton (used to be a Radisson) that is on the same stretch of perfect beach.
With the Andaz Maui, paid rates are usually high enough to where using points at a fixed value isn't a good deal. If you search for eight award nights you will see some standard award availability that isn't available when searching shorter stays of one week or less. If you have the points, you could book for eight nights and then call the hotel to shorten the stay to the length you actually want.
My recommendation for now if you can't find award availability at the Andaz Maui is to simply to skip visiting that resort. You can use Hilton points or award nights at the nearby Grand Wailea or visit the other Hyatt in Maui, the Hyatt Regency Maui. The Hyatt Regency Maui is actually a better value than the Andaz at just 20,000 Hyatt points per night and it is a better destination for families with great pools, an onsite club lounge, onsite amazing shave ice, and no award availability games.
This is not the first round of hotel award availability games with a few Hyatt properties, and it probably won't be the last. While I don't have upcoming plans to visit either of these two Hyatt resorts, I have visited both in the past and want others to have the same chance using their World of Hyatt points in the future. It is best for everyone when a program has clear rules that are followed and applied in a consistent, predictable, and transparent manner.
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