Shady Award Night Blocking At Grand Hyatt Incheon?

Reader cipas raised an interesting topic in the “Ask Lucky” forum:

I’m regular reader and read about Hyatt Seattle award night blocking back in few month ago.

I have similar case in South Korea properties and wondering what will be the best option to approach high-level personal in Hyatt Corporation.

First, Grand Hyatt Incheon was formally Hyatt Regency Incheon, renovated, build new tower and became Grand Hyatt.

When they opened new tower, they arranged all of the standard rooms in old tower, which is east tower. So in new tower, there aren’t any standard category rooms.

Now, during weekend of all year they are closing east tower, saying it’s not operating East tower during weekend for efficiency reason. Which makes NO standard room available for award night during weekends.

Do you think this is allowed? or against franchise contracts with Hyatt?

Second, Grand Hyatt Seoul announced they have new policy for summer (peak) season.

Grand Hyatt Seoul states that Hyatt Corporation allowed them to run-like-resort property during summer season and can apply Hyatt Resort policy.

Which allows them to NOT honor any guarantees of Diamond & Platinum benefits.

Crazy huh?

It is happening now and was happening since July.

Interesting, interesting, interesting!

Hotels are getting creative with restrictions

The business side of the hotel industry — especially when it comes to loyalty programs — is outrageously complex. In many ways it actually makes the airline industry look simple by comparison.

For the most part, the major hotel chains simply have management contracts for “their” hotels. Hyatt, Starwood, etc., get a percentage of revenue (or compensation using some other metric), and in exchange they market the hotel, staff it, provide guidance/standard operating procedures, etc.

The fact that hotels have different owners is one of the reasons guest experiences can differ significantly based on where you stay. Some hotels clearly don’t fully “buy into” the loyalty programs, and that’s why elite benefits at some properties are lackluster. And then there are others that “get it.”

The challenge is that when hotels are full and room rates are quite high (as is the case right now), it’s easy for hotels to try and get “creative” to limit having to dish out perks and free nights (even though they’re compensated by the hotel loyalty program for those).

With that in mind, let’s tackle these specific issues.

No standard rooms for sale at Grand Hyatt Incheon?

I’ve stayed at the Grand Hyatt Incheon before — formally the Hyatt Regency Incheon — and it’s certainly one of the nicer airport hotels out there.

Grand-Hyatt-Incheon-Airport-13

The hotel has two towers, and apparently they’re shutting down one of them on weekends due to low demand.

Grand-Hyatt-Incheon-Airport-05

Technically all the standard rooms are in one tower — coincidentally, the one which is shut down.

The “standard room” at this hotel is a Grand Twin/King room, which is bookable for 8,000 points per night.

Grand-Hyatt-Room-2

However, on weekends the most basic room for sale is the Grand Deluxe King room, which is renovated, slightly larger, and located in the other tower.

Grand-Hyatt-Room-1

So is it legit for the hotel not to make award nights available across the board on weekends, given that there are technically no standard rooms available for sale?

The Hyatt Gold Passport T&Cs say the following regarding redeeming points for standard rooms:

Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards apply when standard rooms are available at the Hyatt Daily Rate. Standard rooms are defined by each hotel and are not subject to blackout dates. Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards cannot be redeemed for packages.

Per the terms, the hotel is allowed to define what constitutes a standard room. Which they’re defining in this case as a Grand Twin/King room. However, the terms also state that these rooms are “not subject to blackout dates.” If these rooms aren’t available on any weekends, then clearly they’re imposing blackout dates.

So yes, I do think the hotel is violating Hyatt T&Cs. I actually don’t think it’s intentional, though. Presumably if there’s low demand on weekends they’d be happy to have people redeem points there. But the way the system is set up, you can only redeem points for a standard room, and because of how it works out, those aren’t available on weekends.

I do think it’s an oversight, though agree it violates the terms. Because there are very clear blackout dates here.

Grand Hyatt Seoul claiming to be a resort?

Now this is really low, if true. Hyatt resorts technically don’t have to honor late check-out. 4PM Diamond check-out is guaranteed at all non-resorts, and subject to availability at resorts. Here’s how the Hyatt T&Cs define that benefit:

Diamond members receive a 4:00 PM late checkout (local hotel time) on day of departure at most Hyatt properties. 4:00 PM late checkout is subject to availability at hotels with a casino (including Grand Hyatt Macau and Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila) and Hyatt resorts. A detailed list of Hyatt resorts can be found at hyattresorts.com.

In this case Hyatt is defining resorts as those properties listed at hyattresorts.com. What the selection process is like I’m not sure of, as presumably there are some internal criteria used to identify that.

Hyatt-Resorts

That being said, the Grand Hyatt Seoul is not listed on that page, and therefore can’t arbitrarily decide on weekends that they’re a resort, in my opinion. And regardless, it would be a real stretch to call it a resort.

While I think the Grand Hyatt Incheon award blocking on weekends is unintentional, what the Grand Hyatt Seoul is doing is shameful and intentional (assuming it’s actually the case and not one misinformed agent making up rules).

Bottom line

Hyatt Gold Passport is a really well run program, and ultimately I think Hyatt does among the best job of delivering a consistent experience. I think the first situation described above is unintentional (and perhaps even a technology limitation), while the second situation is clearly a very customer unfriendly hotel policy, as opposed to something coming from higher up.

I’ll follow up directly with Hyatt Gold Passport on both of the above, and will report back with any updates.

What do you make of the above two situations? Are either policies excusable? Do you think they’re intentional?

Comments

  1. “Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards apply when standard rooms are available at the Hyatt Daily Rate”.

    No “standard rooms” available, ergo Free Night Awards do not apply. So not a question of blackout dates per se.

  2. @Mike my post was about the process they have in place for shenanigans with Diamond Suite Upgrades, and noted that they had successfully played whack-a-mole with specific hotels identified as playing games with award inventory.

    This will, no doubt, always pop up because as Lucky mentions hotels are usually owned separately from the chain.

    The relevant question is how the program responds.

  3. I have actually stayed at both the East and West towers after the so-called transition from Hyatt Regency to Grand Hyatt. East Tower has no change from previous Hyatt Regency property and BTW they have also closed the Club lounge in the East Tower. This whole change is just so wrong in many levels, which result in a rather heavy handed email to the hotel (which I rarely do), and a bad review on tripadvisor. I don’t mind they calling the new wing as Grand Hyatt but with no change on the old tower, how can you call it Grand Hyatt? Plus they also sell Club Room in the East Tower at a slightly lower rate but they never mention that the Hyatt Club is closed on the east tower and you have to walk over to the West Tower Club room, which requires taking an elevator to the 1st floor and then walking across a long corridor and even a section that is outdoor (but with glass ceiling. Then going all the way back to the top floor again. It is a ten minutes walk, and you cannot check in and check out over there.

    Resort – there is no way that this hotel can be considered a resort by any means. There is no beach and unless they are building a giant pool (which they can’t use half of the year due to the harsh winter in Seoul), I can’t justify paying the resort fee.

    I really hope Hyatt corporate can talk with the management team of Grand Hyatt Incheon. This change has been wrong in so many levels and I am surprised that the main corporate office has not rectified the situation over there.

    The only solution is that Incheon Airport needs to entice more chain hotels to open other airport hotels to allow some real competitions. The Best Western has potentials but sucks so bad that I can’t even go back to stay there.

    Thank you Ben for following up on this matter!

  4. @jon,

    My guess is that there is some sort of rule about what percentage of rooms must be considered “standard”, otherwise some hotels would just say: “We have no standard rooms”. They always try to play games with this with “executive rooms” and “view rooms” that are otherwise identical to the standard.

  5. Interesting timing! Earlier today, I tried to book a cash and points night at this property and was told it was unavailable. After checking FlyerTalk, I found only one example of someone being able to get such a booking. I know it’s up to individual hotels to participate in cash+points. I’m wondering if this location made the determination to not take any cash and points bookings going forward.

  6. I just staied at Grand Hyatt Seoul last week (I’ve been there over 20 times the past 4 years).
    It actually became a resort! I can’t tell you the sudden increase of number of families, long queue waiting for lift, kids running everywhere, over crowded in general. Grand Hyatt Seoul is now targeting families during school holidays (JUL-AUG) in Korea. Very silly strategy for a business hotel, I will change hotel.

  7. Thanks for reaching out to corporate to try to resolve this. It’s good you are using your connections and notoriety rather than a post asking “is this wrong.”

  8. I had an issue booking a award room at the Hyatt Indianapolis over New Years. I called in to book a points plus cash reservation for Dec 31-Jan 3 night and use a diamond upgrade to a suite. The reservation went through, but before I got off the phone with the rep, I got an email saying my reservation was cancelled. I found this quite odd since the rep told me that the hotel rules stated I absolutely could not cancel this once booked.

    I called the hotel and talked to the assistant to the GM. She said those rooms should not have been made available to make a reservation for in the first place as they block off all rooms for a party and you must book a party/room or party/dinner/room package to stay on New Years Eve.

    After reading this post, I called HGP again to verify this was breaking their terms as it appeared they were blacking out the New Years Eve by not making any standard rooms available and forcing you to book a package. The rep said it’s up to the hotel to make rules regarding packages and they had the right to do this on new years and “other major events”.

    I went back and read the terms and conditions again. Under “REDEEMING POINTS FOR HYATT GOLD PASSPORT AWARDS” parts 3 and 4 seem to address this issue. Yes, hotels can’t blackout a stay if a standard award is available, but they can decide to not make standard rooms available, thus preventing the ability to make an award stay.

  9. “Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards apply when standard rooms are available at the Hyatt Daily Rate”

    Std rooms are NOT available. Therefore award does NOT apply.

    Seems pretty clear to me. Not that I support this kind of trickery (intentional or not), but I think this nullifies your interpretation.

  10. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been checking the Hyatt Incheon for months for a standard award room for a Saturday night in September, but kept getting nothing. I’d just figured that there was some huge party on that weekend. I finally bit the bullet, and booked a club room.
    I’d booked a room at the Park Hyatt Seoul later in September, but had been thinking about changing to the Grand Hyatt Seoul. Luxury is nice, but relaxation and fun mean more, and the Grand Hyatt has a club lounge, which would be a nice way to use my new Diamond status. With the way the Grand Hyatt is acting, I’m not so sure anymore that changing is a good idea.

  11. Something like along the lines described just happened to me when I tried to book a 3-night award stay at Paik Hyatt Siem Reap in Cambodia for early January 2016 using 2 different instruments:
    1) a 2-night cash+points award
    2) 1 free night using my anniversary free night from the Chase Hyatt visa.

    I checked to see if there was standard room (Park king) availability at the Hyatt Daily Rate for the 3 night that I wanted and there was. This being Hyatt and despite claims about how “it is a really well run program”, and “does among the best job of delivering a consistent experience”, one still has to call to find the availability and book cash+points awards, which virtually every other program that offers them has automated.

    Anyway, I got a Hyatt CSR on the phone who initially told that he had cash+points availability for the 3 nights I wanted. I said great and please book them for me, except that I would like two of the nights to be C+P and one night to use my free night from the Chase Hyatt visa. He disappeared for a while and, to my surprise, said when he got back that he could not book the first night either with C+P or with the free night certificate, but he could book the last 2 award nights just fine. I asked him what was the problem. He said that for the first night, a Saturday, there were suddenly no longer any standard rooms available. He even brought in a supervisor to try to book that first award night for me and she also failed. So, I just asked them to book the last 2 award nights and “waitlist” me for the first award night in case a standard room becomes available. That was a week ago Sunday.

    Today, due to the discussion in this post from which I just learned that “Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards apply when standard rooms are available at the Hyatt Daily Rate”, it dawned on me that the folks at Park Hyatt Siem Reap had pulled some shenanigans on when they told me that one night out of the three that I wanted could not be booked because there were standard rooms available. I thought that they simply decided to turn the standard room for that one Saturday into a premium room to avoid giving it away as an award [something that’s done at Hilton by setting a ridiculously large number of points for so-called “premium” reward rooms]. The situation at Park Hyatt Siem Reap was clearly in violation of the T&C. So, once again, I went to the Hyatt website to make sure that there was standard Park king room availability at the Hyatt Daily Rate for the 3 nights that I desired, and there was. This meant that “Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards” should apply for all three nights if there is no blackout or shenanigan!

    I got on the phone again with a Hyatt CSR, and explained that I had an incomplete award booking because there was no standard award availability for the first of the three nights of my stay, so I was checking to see if anything had become available. I was prepared to quote her the rule about when “Hyatt Gold Passport Free Night Awards” apply, but then she came back and told me that she had no problem (re)booking all three nights for me: nights 1 & 2 as C+P and night 3 using my free night certificate.

    The initial failure to book this award fully happened before Hyatt’s Jeff Zidell had assured Gary Leff that he’d instructed Hyatt properties to put an end to the shenanigans, so that may be why on the second try a week later the previously unavailable standard room suddenly became available. Well, considering what’s been going on, it is a plausible explanation but I am just happy that I got off the “waitlist” for that property and am now fully booked 😉

  12. I know half dozen Diamond members who stayed in past two weekends denied 4pm checkout and received reply with word ‘resort’ from hotel staffs including managers.
    They even posted summer season policy on their websites. It doesn’t say ‘Diamond’ but Diamond is the one gets 4pm checkout as guarantee, there is no need to state this on their summer season policy if they weren’t talking about elite members.

    Ref. http://seoul.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/news-and-events/news-listing/summer_operation_policy0.html

    Plus, read the swimming pool policy.
    During so called ‘Golden Season’, if you are staying for more than 1 day, you have to choose which day you will be using the pool and you only gets 1 day access during your entire stay.
    If you are staying for 7 nights, you have to choose A day during check in.
    And if you loose your pool access coupon, you are out of luck. NO swimming for you!
    And guests with tattoo is not allowed policy. Really?

  13. BTW, I can guess why I had such a hard time doing the full 3-night booking at Park Hyatt Siem Reap. The Hyatt Daily Rate for each of the 3 nights I was interested in was US$500/night! This being a category 4 hotel, a C+P award would cost “just” $100+7.5K GP points, which is a real steal and tremendous value because it comes out to a whopping redemption value of 5.3 cents per point, i.e., nearly 4 times what bloggers value each GP point at 😉

    The property must have figured that they could make real money (US$500) on that Saturday because they expected to check in full, so they turned a standard room into a premium room to make it unavailable for reward booking on that one Saturday night. I am really glad they relented and let me book it for all three nights as a reward stay! What a redemption value!

    As I had alluded to in my previous comment, Hilton gets around this “problem” by simply making the room rates in points exorbitantly expensive for anyone in their right mind to redeem points for, but at least they are up front about it. Hyatt is sneaky but there is absolutely no difference between what they are doing and Hilton’s approach to achieving the same thing for they are despised! So, the next time anyone is tempted to bitch about how expensive Hilton’s premium rewards are, remember that Hyatt does exactly the same thing, except that they simply do not put a price tag in points on standard room that they do not wish to make available for reward stays. They simply tell you that there are no standard rooms available. Different approaches, same result.

  14. I just had an interesting conversations with local elites about Grand Hyatt Incheon.
    They claims demands from the locals are very strong on weekends at the GHI.
    High demands from local family with kids because of the swimming pool, outdoor BBQ & camping, near by attraction such as the theme park at Wolmido Island and more.
    Because of higher occupancy rate on weekends, their average weekends rates are higher, averaging USD 200 to 350. Yet, their award night is only 8,000 points.

    Math here? Grand Hyatt Incheon will be more profitable to close down East tower, all the standard rooms and sell less total number of rooms than open up all the standard rooms in East tower and sell more rooms with award nights.
    Because after the expansion there is no way for them to have 90~95% occupancy to get full rate from the Hyatt on the award nights.

    Yes, they believe this is very intentional.

  15. You know, I’d be more willing to reward a hotel program that offered consistently reliable but less sexy (SNA, etc) benefits. The ways things are these days, they are more honoured in the breach than the observance (which probably explains why I throw more income at airlines than hotels, they are no quite as bad yet). After all, what good is a sexy benefit if it is mostly vapourware.

  16. Was the Hyatt Regency Kyoto a Hyatt resort when you stayed there 3 years ago? If so and this policy was in place, perhaps that is why they did not allow you to check out at 4pm?

  17. Speaking about award blocking, I’m trying to book Hyatt Regency Nice on points. There’s no availability on 2 out of the 3 nights that I want, but I noticed there’s a Queen room under Queen Package and based on the description the room seems to be smaller than the standard King or Twin room. @Lucky, do you think if I can contact GP to see if there’s anything that they can do?

  18. With a stop just a block away from Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and easy access via MARTA from Grand Hyatt Atlanta, the Streetcar is a great way to enjoy restaurants and attractions downtown – and rides are free of charge through 2015. Outside the hotels, venture to some of America’s most in-demand restaurants.

  19. It’s even more shady than it seems. At the Grand Hyatt Incheon, the standard rooms (Grand King/Twin) magically appear on weekends if you search Friday & Saturday night together. If you choose one night they disappear. So it is not the case that one tower is shut down on the weekend, they just are forcing people to book club rooms because they can get away with it. Sort of like married segment logic from airlines but instead applied to hotel rooms.

  20. My job for the past 9 years forces me to practically live at the Grand Hyatt Incheon.
    I can say with 100% certainty that none of the towers shuts down or closes during any season due to low demand, that it’s just not true.
    It is just a good excuse not to allow passport members to redeem their earned points.
    Next time anyone reading this post gets that excuse when trying to book a room using points please contact Hyatt passport.
    I guarantee they don’t close none of the towers.

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