Here’s what I did when a Hyatt resort didn’t honor my ‘confirmed’ suite upgrade
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It’s no secret that the team at TPG is full of World of Hyatt fans.
Although Hyatt is smaller than mega-chains like Marriott, Hilton and IHG, it makes up for its light footprint with a loyalty program that I personally consider the best out there.
Top-tier Globalist elite members get a free full breakfast (read: hot) at hotels without a club lounge. Other chains often only offer a free continental breakfast, a food and beverage credit or no free breakfast at all. (I’m looking at you Ritz-Carlton and IHG.)
However, when I arrived Christmas week at the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico, the front desk wasn’t willing to honor that confirmation, one that I had secured 11 months before our stay.
Instead, the front desk manager told me that the resort was sold out, no suites were available and upgrades were not being offered the week of the holiday, despite acknowledging the suite request in the notes for my booking.
I made one attempt to explain how this wasn’t a polite attempt to get an upgrade, but that when somebody used one of these certificates, the World of Hyatt program actually guarantees the suite.
Again, she told me there were no suites open, so I decided to head to our standard room and try another avenue.
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How World of Hyatt suite upgrade certificates work
The amazing thing about World of Hyatt is the confirmed nature of these upgrade certificates. They can be applied months in advance.
If you book a room under an eligible rate or with points, you can apply the certificate if there is a standard suite available at that time. (Upgrades can’t be applied to free night certificates or certain special rates, such as employee discounts.)
Each certificate is valid for a single stay of up to seven nights, meaning you can enjoy an upgrade for an entire week, which is confirmed at the time of booking. No other hotel loyalty program is that generous.
Marriott Bonvoy, for instance, does give Platinum and Titanium members the choice of suite night upgrade certificates, but they typically only receive suite upgrade confirmations a few nights before arrival.
Hilton was piloting a suite upgrade program right before the pandemic. For its part, IHG Rewards has no such upgrade certificates.
World of Hyatt members, however, earn two suite upgrade certificates after spending 50 qualifying nights with the chain in a calendar year as part of Hyatt’s so-called Milestone Rewards system. If they stay another 10 nights with Hyatt that year, they get two more certificates (and qualify for top-tier Globalist status).
Globalists who spend even more nights at Hyatt properties get a choice of 10,000 bonus points or an extra suite upgrade certificate once they hit 70, 80, 90 and 100 nights in a calendar year. That means somebody who spends 100 nights a year at Hyatt hotels could have a total of eight suite upgrade certificates, which can potentially cover eight weeklong stays in suites.
Normally, you want to look for the phrase “this is a standard suite” to find the category that certificates upgrade into. If something is listed as a “premium suite,” it isn’t eligible for one of these upgrade certificates. While this can be somewhat limiting, in my experience, there are still a lot of opportunities to apply these upgrades to stays and enjoy up to a week in a suite that might be out of reach otherwise.
For a complete guide to using Hyatt suite upgrade certificates, read this story by TPG’s Benji Stawski.
Booking my suite upgrade in Puerto Rico
When you travel with kids, you often need to plan vacations around school breaks. To ensure that I can use points, I often start mapping out trips a year in advance and book rooms as soon as I can.
Each chain has different rules about how far in advance they allow reservations. You can read our full guide here. For Hyatt, it’s 13 months in advance.
So on Jan. 3, 2021 — nearly a year ahead of our stay this Christmas — I booked a room with points. We hadn’t settled on Puerto Rico yet, but there was no risk to holding the room since I would be able to cancel up until shortly before our stay.
I redeemed 84,000 points for a seven-night stay in a garden view room with two double beds, the property’s entry-level room type that measures about 520 square feet.
When I booked, the hotel was only a World of Hyatt Category 3 property, so it required just 12,000 points per night. At TPG’s valuations, the 84,000 points I used are worth $1,428. Rooms at the hotel are going for $500 per night most of this winter, though, and exceeded $700 for Christmas week, so I was getting a great deal.
The property has since become a Category 4 hotel, meaning you’ll now need 15,000 points when you book a night during standard periods. Starting in March 2022, though, World of Hyatt is rolling out peak and off-peak award pricing. As a result, the hotel will potentially cost just 12,000 points a night during off-peak times but will increase to 18,000 points a night during peak weeks like Christmas.
Back to my reservation, though. A few weeks after making our booking, once we decided to proceed with Puerto Rico as our top holiday trip option, I called my Hyatt reservation concierge (more on that in a moment) to use a suite upgrade to confirm us into a 1,075-square-foot, one-bedroom suite for the weeklong stay. As any parent knows, having more space — plus a door that closes — makes any vacation much more relaxing. Instead of going to bed at 8 p.m. with your kid, you can stay up later and read or watch TV without worrying about waking them.
Over the years, I’ve found that applying suite upgrade certificates can be very inconsistent due to Hyatt’s dated computer system. The room type usually updates with cash reservations when applying a certificate, but when using points, the system tends to still show the original room category. However, the hotel typically knows on the backend that a guest has been upgraded.
Knowing this potential system glitch could come up, I reached out again to my concierge within a few weeks of our trip to double check that our suite was confirmed. She immediately confirmed we had a one-bedroom king suite and that she had requested a rollaway bed for my daughter.
When we arrived at the hotel for our vacation, however, the front desk told me there was no suite for us.
As I mentioned, I talked to the manager and mentioned how the upgrade certificates worked but hit a dead end. I didn’t throw a temper tantrum or attempt to argue, though. After the manager told me an upgrade wasn’t possible, I took the standard room and headed there with my family.
I had booked this hotel for my family was because I knew we would have a bit more space to spread out in a suite. If I knew we wouldn’t get the suite, I may have picked another resort for our vacation.
But I wasn’t ready to accept defeat just yet.
My Hyatt Concierge saved the day
Access to a dedicated concierge is one of the other perks of spending 60 or more nights in a year with Hyatt. Instead of calling the Globalist reservation line, you have a direct phone number and an email address for a specific reservation specialist who gets to know you and your preferences. I’m now entering my third year of having this benefit and can’t say enough about my concierge.
Once we got the keys to the standard room, I tried to call my concierge. It went straight to voicemail, so I found the email thread confirming the suite and replied back with: “We just arrived and they told us the suite was not confirmed.” Since it was 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve and I wasn’t sure if my concierge was working, I headed to the room and planned to settle in.
Exactly 20 minutes later, though, as we were changing into our bathing suits, I received the following email response from my concierge: “Please go to the front desk and they will change you to the Regency Suite.” She apologized for the delay, saying, “It took me forever” to reach somebody at the hotel.
I then called her to follow up about who to speak with at the front desk and to thank her. She said she’d be working for a few more hours and to call if I ran into any other problems.
Wow. That is service.
We talk a lot at TPG about “service recovery.” Things will always go wrong in travel; it’s how brands react to those mistakes that really matter. While the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve Puerto Rico failed in its promise, the World of Hyatt loyalty program came through.
I should note that at no point did I mention that I’m the executive editor of this site. My concierge and I have never discussed my job. While she’s been a great help to me, I’ve never expected nor been provided an outsized or unpublished benefit. Others who also have her as their assigned concierge (folks in this travel world chat) rave about her ability to make a trip much better, too. So, while I can’t dismiss somebody factoring in my digital megaphone, I don’t think that played a role here.
Yes, the room — actually an 815-square-foot standalone villa, which I suspect would be considered a premium suite and therefore would not be eligible for standard upgrades — was smaller than the one-bedroom suite I’d booked and lacked a separate bedroom (it was all one large space), but it had its own private pool, a lawn, chairs facing the beach and a glorious bathroom. Room service was actually faster in bringing us lunch here than the food truck next to the hotel’s main pool.
This hotel is still pretty new to Hyatt. It was the Gran Meliá Golf Resort but was rebranded as a Hyatt in August 2019. (I later learned from the resort director that many of the hotel’s suites are currently being renovated.)
While we didn’t end up in the one-bedroom suite we booked, the Regency Suite that magically appeared was arguably better.
Curious about what had happened, I reached out to Hyatt’s public relations team after I returned home. Here’s the guidance Hyatt offered in my situation:
If a member confirms a suite upgrade award at the time of booking prior to arrival, and in the rare circumstance the suite is not available at time of check-in, members should ask to speak with the Manager on duty while on property for further assistance in rectifying the situation. Globalists can also reach out to their My Hyatt Concierge or Hyatt’s customer service team to review what alternative options may be available.
I had inadvertently followed this advice by first talking to the manager, who claimed my upgrade could not be honored. I followed that up with an email and a call to my concierge, who found me an alternative. Luckily, that worked out in my situation. But I probed a little further to see what recourse might have been available to me under different circumstances, and here’s what Hyatt’s spokesperson said:
We would work with the member to ensure they are properly met with an alternative that suits their needs, either by returning the suite upgrade award certificate to their account to use on a future reservation (if time allows), or providing other forms of compensation such as points or a discounted rate.
It’s good to know that folks who are denied their confirmed upgrades can at least count on them being returned, or some form of recompense, but I would have been pretty disappointed if I’d ended up in a single standard room for a week when I’d flown all the way to Puerto Rico expecting a suite. Luckily, my concierge pulled through in a clutch and delivered outstanding service yet again, underlining why World of Hyatt remains one of my main loyalty programs.
While I love World of Hyatt for offering confirmed suite upgrade certificates, the real hero of this story is another elite benefit: my Hyatt concierge.
If you don’t have one, it is worth sending a direct message to the @HyattConcierge team on Twitter or trying the main Hyatt phone number.
Before booking a stay, it’s important to understand your benefits, what a program guarantees and what is just a nice add-on.
If using an upgrade, confirm it before a trip, especially during peak times. Don’t always assume that the manager at a specific property will know all the nuances of a loyalty program. Know what avenues of recourse you have.
All the big hotel chains are made up of a hodgepodge of owners and management companies. Not all of them know — or want to honor — the elite benefits the parent company sets for members, so it pays to know exactly what you are entitled to with each chain.
Featured photo by Scott Mayerowitz / The Points Guy.
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