Hotel Cancels Award Stay Because They Found Someone Better To Rent Rooms To

Your travel reservations are never guaranteed, if the travel provider can sell your trip to someone else for (enough) more money. I wrote recently about Hilton cancelling all summer reservations at a Hawaiian hotel property, leaving guests with few options when the hotel had a chance to sell out to a single group booking. Now a similar situation has happened with Hyatt, though unsurprisingly Hyatt did more for the guests that were bumped.

A customer booked at Alila Ventana Big Sur in September on points for their 25th anniversary found that their reservation was being cancelled by the hotel because the property got a better deal from a group booking.

  • The property called the guest to say their booking was cancelled because “someone had bought out the property.”

  • The only compensation was an offer to book different dates. However the 25th anniversary trip, including flights and other hotels, was built around being able to secure an award stay at Alila Ventana.

They had gotten a very good deal. Awards here are 30,000 points per night (Hyatt category 7) but the property is operating as all-inclusive with rates around $2400 per night.

Credit: Alila Ventana Big Sur

On June 21 I reached out to Hyatt about the situation and put them in touch with the property. They said they’d make sure the guest was made whole, but didn’t offer a reassuring statement about award bookings (or even paid stays) actually being guaranteed to be honored by a property,

After looking into this situation further, we learned this situation resulted in a small number of impacted transient reservations. This is not a trend we are seeing at Hyatt hotels, and guests should feel confident in their reservations with us. If this does ever happen at Hyatt hotels, due to unexpected business circumstances, we work to ensure our members and guests are cared for and accommodated in a most appropriate way by rebooking, relocating, or refunding the guest’s stay.

I didn’t actually discuss it with the guest, and two other folks on social media pushed on Hyatt as well here. The guest reports that in exchange for staying on different dates,

  • They were given an extra room night (5 nights instead of 4)
  • In an upgraded room

They were satisfied by the outcome, though honestly I feel their stay should have been complimentary.
I’ve had stays where the hotel preferred to rent out the room I’d booked to someone else. They contacted me and offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse, and were open to negotiation. On a points stay in Thailand a Sheraton there – which had the opportunity for a sell-out to host a wedding – paid to put me up in a premium suite at a Westin and cover meals as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Hotel Cancels Award Stay Because They Found Someone Better To Rent Rooms To. – Hilton has cast aside its “loyal” Hilton Honors members by canceling all of their reservations at a Hawaiian hotel property. And now the Hyatt Alila Ventana Big Sur is doing the same so that they could sell out the entire hotel to one customer. What good is “loyalty” to a program when hotel owners can do this to you? […]


  1. This is crazy, I’d think a small claims court might be the way to go.

    Also keep posting about these deadbeat hotels.


  2. @ Gary — How is that a very good deal? They got the same deal Hyatt always offers on award nights at this hotel. Our stay would have been free, free free free.

  3. I’d be pissed if they did this to me. I agree they should have offered more, but if the guests were satisfied, whatever. I would not have been satisfied and likely would have escalated high within Hyatt Corp. I’m sure others would disagree with my approach.

  4. Breach of contract lawsuits ought to put a stop to this nonsense, especially if the judgments are high enough.

  5. I hate to say it, the only way this will change is through regulation. Not enough people will boycott a chain over something that will likely never impact them personally. And even if they lose in a few small claims courts, they won’t mind. But somehow, I doubt the politicians or regulators will care.

    Maybe someone with a large footprint, you know, someone like a travel blogger, could organize or support large, crowd-funded ads in national outlets that hit a lot of travelers (USA Today?) that name-names of hotels when they do this. Heck, I would chip in a few bucks….

  6. For those advocating small claims court or breach of contract you would NEVER win and you won’t get an attorney to take it due to small likelihood of success. Just like airline contracts, hotels have a lot of small print you agree to, whether or like (or even know it), when you book a reservation. One is that the reservation is not guaranteed and can be cancelled at the hotel’s sole discretion. Doesn’t happen a lot but this protects them. As long as they refund the amount prepaid (or points) there is no harm done (emotional harm and costs associated w airline tickets and other expenses have been ruled as not applicable)

    Sorry it happens but try to make the most of it instead of threatening to sue and get nothing.

  7. That’s a shameful offer from the hotel. I would never accept just an extra night and a room upgrade.

  8. Perhaps this couple are colored people, not American citizens? If that’s the case I think Hyatt is become more than generous. They don’t deserve the treatment as us,

  9. @AC I respectfully disagree. Even if it isn’t a technical breach of contract, because it is a contract of adhesion it is strictly construed against the drafter. Moreover, implied into every contact in California is the “covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” and clearly Hyatt’s actions run afoul of this contract. And I can think of a couple of good theories for naming the hotel’s general manager and the reservations manager (or whoever actually did the cancellation). I also see a cause of action for both intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, two recognized torts in California, as the hotel – knowing that the guests were coming from out of town and therefore had contracts with other travel providers (e.g., the airline and the rental car vultures, and perhaps some other restaurants where they had reservations) – they impeded these guests’ relations with these other third parties. I’d shove a lawsuit so far up Hyatt’s tuchas that they’d need a colonoscopy before they contact their counsel.

  10. @ AC — That’s the beauty of small claims, no lawyer needed, although Big Corporation will require one and will therefore settle.

  11. Neal – That’s cute. Hyatt isn’t scared of your legal jargon and bs threats. They would stomp you out in 2 minutes in court.

    You’re a peon in the grand scheme of things.

  12. If this keeps happening then I will just be done with hotel points and all my points will go to airlines. Problem solved for me in long run. You f with me that way then you lose my business.

  13. AC doesn’t know what they are talking about.

    If he is going to assert that hotels have written agreements with a lot of small print then he should at least point us to those written agreements. I’m not talking about whatever you might sign when checking into a hotel but what you are agreeing to when making the reservation.

    Haven’t ever seen one of these? Me either, so unless AC has he’s just shooting his mouth off.

    But if raises an interesting question. Is there a written agreement and what are you and whoever is taking the booking agreeing to? A quick search of the Hyatt and Marriott websites turned up some terms and conditions for use of the website and their respective reward programs but I didn’t see anything in the former (which would be the only part that would apply to everyone using the site to make a booking) that addressed the issue of failing to perform.

    Absent a written contract the presumption would be that failing to provide a room per the reservation would be a failure to perform and would award damages to the extent necessary to make the injured party whole. Those could conceivably be much greater than the cost of the room.

  14. Gary, the fact is that loyalty is not a two-way street. Individual property have a mind of their own.

    On a paid stay booked as a suite (I have a confirmation email reflecting the suite), the day prior it comes up as a non-suite . . . with the original suite’s booking price.

    Hotel management said it was always a non-suite and was confused by the email confirmation — wouldn’t adjust the room rate to the category I was getting. The hotel network said I would have to work out the rate with the property.

    I canceled the stay 20 minutes prior to the flexible stay cutoff. I’m done with that hotel network.

  15. This just happened to me in Hawaii. Booked 5 nights at Hilton in Hilo and they I emailed 5 weeks ago to say the reservation was canceled. I’m Diamond and they offered me nothing. Turns out Love Island bought out the hotel…

  16. I’d find a California lawyer who understood Cal. Business and Professions Code Sec. 17200, relating to deceptive acts and practices.

  17. @Thing 1

    National regulation is never the way to go. However, state consumer laws that give clear consumer protections in this case wouldn’t be too much of a burden. It’s not restricting freedom. It’s clarifying what is a reasonable standard for hotel-guest contracts when a guest makes a reservation.

    Certainly, hotels should have the prerogative to cancel bookings. However, if it’s not for maintenance issues it makes sense for the hotel to provide comparable accommodations in town for guests. If no comparable accommodations are available, paying for change fees for airfare and any non refundable booked things would suffice.

    It’s a bit more complicated than people make it seem. Guests can cancel on the hotel in the cancellation window (7 days for most 5 star hotels) and hotels are out of luck. Guests can cancel within the cancellation window and it is one night cost. The hotel is out if it can’t sell the room.

    The hotel management should have instructed agents to just say the hotel was overbooked. Even if they offer compensation for change fees, it looks better to the public than cancelling for more lucrative $. Smart business is to determine if the cost to the brand is going to be covered by the increased $ booking. They should have set aside some money for a complimentary stay of a certain number of nights and offer to pay change fees.

  18. Why is it so difficult for hotels to make whole when they do something wrong? So many issues could have been resolved if the hotel offered the impacted guest in advance and asked to move the dates, with an offer they can’t refuse: complimentary upgrade, comped dinner, an offer to pay for fees to change the flight reservations (and pass on the fees to the buyout group).

    I wouldn’t go as far as demanding a free room, but you can always negotiate the add-on charges.

  19. Read fine print
    This happens ALOT on cruise lines. As a travel agent I’ve had people get cancelled when a corporation buys out the property or sailing. This is not news, just news to those not in the industry. It sucks and I hate it as I’m left to deal with telling clients this happened.
    But this legal and in their contract.

  20. @Desperado, it’s not legal jargon, but thanks for the jejune comments and thinking that you’re the smartest guy in the room. (By the way, you’re not, and I just finished successfully litigating a pretty big federal trial on a case which has lasted 5 years involving a company just as large as Hyatt, in their hometown of Chicago, so kindly shut your pie-hole before throwing your baseless insults.). And @Retired lawyer, I completely agree and I would absolutely throw a 17200 claim in there as I’ often do when pleading these types of disputes. The UCL was designed for this very type of situation and I can’t tell you the number of lawyers – even from the big firms like @Desperado thinks that Hyatt will hire – who (unsuccessfully) demur to those complaints not understanding that you need only one of the three prongs (unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices) to prevail on a 17200 claim. And, of course, the injunctive relief remedy available under the UCL paradigm can be quite powerful and would send quite a shockwave through the community. And for what it’s worth, while I was only admitted pro hac in Illinois, I do know that Illinois has a fairly similar statutory paradigm with their unfair business practices statutes, so such a suit could readily be maintained against Hyatt in Chicago as well. If this happens to someone in a state where they don’t have a similar UCL type law, and the damages are in excess of $75k (which they might well be on a large stay at an expensive property with first class airfare, rental cars, and other expenses), suit could certainly be filed in federal court in Chicago under diversity using Illinois law in the defendant’s nucleus of operations.

  21. I do understand the frustration with a well-planned reservation being cancelled. But one can be walked out of a hotel from time to time. As a Diamond, I was “walked” out Home-2-Home once. I did hear about several cases of folks being walked out the hotels but I am not aware of small court cases because of that. Old SPG had specific policies regarding compensating PLT members but I am not sure about compensations to the regular one. It is still better to get cancelled way in advance than upon arrival.
    Today, with hotels filled to the brim, there one should consider to check in on-line as soon as this option is available. Otherwise, there is chance of no rooms left for you arriving at 11:30 pm with your confirmed reservation and very limited options for even relocating you in another accommodation. Just past May I have witnessed a frustrated family of 4 trying to check into one of the Hilton hotels in Beaufort, SC. The hotel had no rooms left and so any other property within 30 miles (this was a weekend). The clerk was new and she has no clue what to do…


    I wonder if that’s in Black’s Law Dictionary.

    Thanks to the actual lawyers for reference to the actual code.

  23. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider booking hotels v sleeping in a tent with the rest of the homeless in CA.

    ABNB “host” did this to me 1 day in advance on a two month reservation in 2015 and as you might guess I have not, and will never book through ABNB.

  24. Whatever bad things befall the rental car, hotel and airline companies will be justified. I have no sympathy for the travel industry. It has an adversarial relationship with its customers for the most part.

  25. I agree with Jackson Waterson’s legal analysis re: that such hotels should pay any change fees. fare differences, etc. I would also expect a suite at half-off the price of a Standard Room (points here, or $ if the original reservation had been $.) So I agree with Gene that the offer is not even kind of good let alone very good. However, Hyatt does not have B4G1 on award nights. Bonvoy & Hilton do.

  26. @Neal – You’re a loser! You didn’t litigate a case and win against a company comparable to Hyatt.

    Phony!! Sad! Must be a fan of sleepy joe!

  27. Same thing happened to me for my stay in October. They are moving my 1 night that is affected by the “expected closure” to Carmel Valley Ranch in a suite (I still had to pay 25k points) and upgraded my remaining 2 nights to a suite at Ventana. Overall, my 85k points for 3 nights would have cost me over $7,600 out of pocket so I can’t be too upset.

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