Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrade Policy Is Changing After All

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There was a line used in a popular 1980’s political sit-com that read “never believe anything until it’s officially denied” and, while that line referred to the shenanigans that go on in politics, it would seem it’s equally as appropriate when considering what loyalty programs and their executives have to say.

American Airlines led the way in officially denying something (in a roundabout way) that later came to fruition when they  made a poor attempt at covering up the changes to earnings on British Airways flights.

Back in September 2015 someone pressed a button they weren’t meant to and new British Airways award charts appeared online well before American Airlines was ready for the world to see them (Is AAdvantage Cutting Earning Rates On British Airways?). American Airlines claimed it was all a big mistake and the award charts disappeared….but I was reasonably sure we’d just had a sneak peek into the future (Did American Airlines Really Make A Mistake?) and sure enough, a couple of months later, the hammer fell (Mileage Earning on British Airways Slashed) and the award charts turned out to be real after all.

Park Hyatt DubaiSuite at the Park Hyatt Dubai

Now it’s Hyatt’s turn to look bad.

Hyatt’s Growing Nose

At the beginning of December 2015 I had a conversation with a Hyatt Gold Passport agent that inadvertently revealed that Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades would become that little bit harder to use with the closing of a very nice loophole (Rumor: Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades – Change Coming).

The super-helpful phone agent told me that Diamond Suite Upgrades issued in 2016 (expiring February 2017) would have to be assigned to reservations with a checkout date before 1 March 2017. Up to this point the rules only required the upgrades to have been assigned to reservations before the February expiration date – it didn’t matter if the actual stay occurred past the expiration date.

Gary Leff (ViewFromTheWing) very kindly checked this information out with his sources at Hyatt who, without actually flatly denying that the change was coming, did their level best to throw us off the scent:

At this time, there are no changes to the Diamond Suite Upgrade policy. We are always evaluating the Hyatt Gold Passport program and benefits, and any changes would be communicated to members well in advance.

Just like with the American Airlines award charts in September I didn’t believe this attempt at a denial either (Hyatt Diamond Upgrades – Why I Still Think Change Is Coming). At the time I even wrote the following:

I think that it’s worth remembering that the DSUs to which this change would apply will not be issued for almost 3 months, so that’s more than enough time for Hyatt to give its Gold Passport members a good amount of advance warning should this change be coming. They could announce this at the end of January and still be able to claim that sufficient advance warning was given.

Well, it’s now the 21st of January (which, you have to admit, is pretty close to the end of January) and Hyatt is announcing, today, that the change they attempted brush off in December is coming into effect.

Hyatt Diamond Suite UpgradesSuite at the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi

It’s sightly ironic that the news has been broken by Gary but, nevertheless, this is what he has been told by the head of Hyatt’s Gold Passport Program, Jeff Zidell (bolding mine):

Diamond members enjoy many exclusive privileges including suite upgrades at the time of reservation four times annually on eligible paid nights. On March 1, 2016, Diamond members will receive four new Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards, and we want to provide clarity on an upcoming modification to the redemption period.

What’s Changing? Suite awards issued on or after March 1, 2016 must be redeemed for reservations with a checkout date prior to the expiration date of the award. Suite awards not redeemed prior to the expiration date of the award will be forfeited.

What’s not changing? Suite awards issued prior to March 1, 2016, must be redeemed by making a reservation no later than the last day of February 2016 for future reservations. In the event one of these Suite awards is redeemed for stay dates beyond the expiration date and the reservation is cancelled after the last day of February 2016, the Suite award will be forfeited.

These changes will be reflected on our website and within our Terms and Conditions on February 1, 2016.

So that’s that. The Hyatt Gold Passport phone agent I spoke to was 100% correct and Hyatt has been shown to be less than honest with what they tell us. And that’s disappointing.

I don’t understand why loyalty programs behave like this…especially in an age where information can be (and is) transmitted so rapidly. A lot of people have heard the rumor and have subsequently heard Hyatt brushing it off – and now that the rumor turns out to have been true Hyatt looks disingenuous.

Hyatt Diamond Suite UpgradesSuite at the Park Hyatt Melbourne

The Fallout

Aside from the issue of Hyatt’s honesty, the change in the Diamond Suites Upgrade policy will almost certainly cause issues for Hyatt’s top-tier elites.

With Diamond Suite Upgrades not being issued until 1 March every year there will be a period of 2-3 months (March-May) every year where suite upgrades will be very hard to use.

Combining the fact that March-May are very popular months for leisure travel and the fact that, on 1 March every year, thousands of Hyatt Diamond Elites will be trying to secure upgrades for their travels during those months means that a lot of people will be disappointed.

When I compared Hyatt Diamond Suite upgrades with Starwood’s equivalent offering I pointed out that a big advantage that Hyatt’s program has is that it works well for those who like to plan ahead. Starwood’s suite nights only get confirmed, at most, 5 nights out while Hyatt’s can be confirmed as far in advance as the expiration policy allows.

With this new rule change by Hyatt, and while the Gold Passport program insists on only issuing the suite upgrades on 1 March and not upon renewal of status, Diamond Suite Upgrades will become a lot less useful for those planing spring/Easter vacations.

Circling back to the comparison with American Airlines – American issues its top-tier elites with Systemwide upgrades when they achieve top-tier status and not on a fixed date each year. Hyatt should do the same with its Diamond Suite Upgrades if they don’t want to see them become a lot less useful for a quarter of the year.


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