The Critical Points: Can Hyatt Place properties opt out of World of Hyatt benefits?
Each week in his column “The Critical Points,” TPG Loyalty and Engagement Editor Richard Kerr presents his opinion on a loyalty program, card product or recent news that he believes is overlooked, unsung or the result of groupthink taking mass opinion in a direction with which he doesn’t agree. His goal is not necessarily to convince you to agree with his position but rather to induce critical thought for each of the topics and positions he covers.
I haven't been shy in making it known Hyatt is my favorite hotel chain. I believe Globalist benefits are the best among top-tier elite statuses with any hotel chain, and I enjoy the overwhelming majority of my stays at Hyatt properties.
However, if there is one pet peeve of mine with the program, it's the rare, individual hotel property skirting the terms and conditions of the World of Hyatt program to make life difficult for guests — whether they're trying to redeem points or utilize their published benefits. This leads me to TPG reader Eric, a Hyatt Globalist, who shared his story with me from two days ago when he tried to check-in early at the Hyatt Place Charlotte Airport/Tyvola Road.
The Hyatt Place brand has a published benefit for World of Hyatt members who would like to request an early check-in or a late check-out. Depending on your status, the cost is anywhere from $10 to free. It is (of course) subject to availability, and you must request it within seven days of arriving to the property.
Eric arrived at the Hyatt Place at 10:30 a.m. after an overnight shift and requested an early check-in. He was told by the front-desk staff that it would cost $25. He pulled up the terms and conditions for the early check-in and showed it to the clerk, who reiterated the property didn't participate in the early check-in program.
Sure enough, on the second line of the benefit's terms and conditions, it says:
"Offer is only valid at participating Hyatt Place hotels, for World of Hyatt members"
Eric asked to speak to the general manager, who was at the property, and he confirmed they did not participate in the benefit and that the room would be $25 for early check-in. Eric reached out to the Hyatt Twitter team (one of the best in the business, based on my experiences), and they also confirmed the benefit is only good at participating properties:
This leads to an interesting power struggle where you have a published benefit for the World of Hyatt program, but properties can apparently opt out at will. In this case, the hotel is also charging more than the published cost for an early check-in. Not satisfied with the Twitter team's answer, I reached out to our Hyatt contact and requested clarification on whether properties can indeed opt out. I received the following response (emphasis from Hyatt):
"The Hyatt Place brand’s early check-in/late checkout offering is available at participating Hyatt Place hotels. Please know that in order for members to take advantage of this offering, they have to reserve early check-in or late checkout in advance. There are three ways in which a member can reserve early check-in or late checkout in advance for eligible stays at participating Hyatt Place hotels:
- Add it to their reservation when they book on Hyatt.com within 7 days of their arrival
- Add it to an existing reservation on the World of Hyatt mobile app within 7 days of their arrival
- Look for an email a few days prior to arrival and reserve early check-in or late checkout then
Although participating Hyatt Place hotels will do their best to honor a World of Hyatt member’s reservation for early check-in or late check out, the offer is subject to availability.
Hoping this helps shed a bit more color on how this offer works. We will work with this hotel to ensure this is being communicated and enforced correctly for World of Hyatt members who reserve early check-in or late checkout in the future."
Based on the emphasis on "participating" by both our Hyatt contact and the Hyatt Twitter team, it would appear the GM of the Hyatt Place in Charlotte is correct. However, the story with Eric does have a happy ending, as after pulling up the policy and showing it, he was allowed to receive early access to his room, free of charge.
What does this mean?
This is the second situation I've encountered where a Hyatt property can utilize language in the program's terms and conditions to technically be in compliance but (in my opinion) fall short of loyal guests' expectations. The first situation involves well-known properties that are less-than straightforward with making rooms available for award bookings.
For example, the Andaz Papgayo in Costa Rica and the Andaz West Hollywood both create a lower category of room that is rarely available for sale with cash even though they are — for all intents and purposes — identical to other rooms in the hotel. In addition, they add minimum-night-stay restrictions, making it even more difficult to find these rooms available for points. Hyatt has confirmed this is within the terms and conditions as written for World of Hyatt, but this behavior obviously isn't consumer-friendly by any stretch.
I can't speak to the actual cost incurred by a Hyatt Place participating in the early check-in/late check-out program, but surely it isn't enough to be a significant line item on a balance sheet. Sure, a property might routinely be at 100% occupancy, but even then it would simply not be available — just like the policy says. Why go out of your way to not participate at all and charge an extra $25 (in this specific property's case) for one of your most loyal guests to be comfortable and happy at your hotel?
While as of now there's no evidence that this practice is widespread, my overarching concern is that down the line a pattern could emerge of properties acting against the interests of loyal Hyatt guests while being able to use technicalities to still be in compliance with the program's terms and conditions. That may be of little consequence now when the economy is great, but memories are long. During a downturn, when the travel industry is looking for heads to fill beds, hotels which act in the best interests of guests will be the first to earn repeat business.
Having a property opt out of a published benefit cuts consumer confidence in a loyalty program. In this case, it does so in the name of an extra $25. The good news is that Hyatt's corporate office has a solid history of being responsive and true to their word when they say they'll work with individual properties to try and overcome these hurdles to deliver consistency and value for their members. I sincerely hope that pattern continues.
I'm glad it worked out for Eric this time, and I'll be sure to test the policy myself on upcoming stays to see if this was an aberration or reflects a broader problem. For what it's worth, I have probably checked in and out of Hyatt Place-branded properties over 50 times as a Diamond/Globalist in the last few years, and I can't remember having to wait for a room a single time, nor do I recall being charged for the privilege. So let's hope that opting out remains an isolated practice.