The Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country has been playing games with free room night award availability. Most of the time you’ve been able to use Hyatt points for free nights there. However there’s a trick they’ve been using at peak times, like Memorial Day Weekend, to stop people from redeeming. They’ve been pulling a fast one on program members – and Hyatt.
Hyatt requires hotels to make all of their standard rooms available on points. When a hotel is close to selling out they get more money than usual – their average daily room rate for the year – to compensate the hotel for lost revenue from a potential paid guest. However on a peak of peak night some hotels feel that isn’t enough. That’s because they would be able to sell the room not just for their average rate, but for a premium rate.
So on these nights what the hotel has been doing is offering standard rooms only as part of a package (and not at the standard rate, which award availability is tied to) in order to avoid offering free night awards.
- The Hyatt Regency Sonoma considers 1 King and 2 Queens to be a standard room. These are the room types awards book into, and they’re available most of the time.
- However on premium dates, such as Memorial Day Weekend these room types are available as part of the Parking Package, Wine County Getaway Package and Pet Package – but not the standard rate.
- The lowest room type available at the standard rate is 1 King Bed with View even when standard rooms are bookable at other rates and thus no awards are made available.
Credit: Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country
I contacted someone at Hyatt about this and they got back to me quickly, “I connected with the World of Hyatt team and they are working with the hotel to ensure availability for award bookings — we’ll let you know shortly when the adjustments are live.” And true to their word they had the problem solved in under 24 hours.
There are some tricks that hotels do get away with. The Andaz West Hollywood only offers standard rooms on points or for sale for fewer than 3 nights on certain days of the week. Other nights they sell the rooms differently and still assign guests to those rooms. The Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach defines standard room very narrowly so there are less than 20, calling nearly identical rooms a higher category.
Perhaps no hotel in the Hyatt system is more egregious than the Andaz Maui. They’ve taken a very limited subset of rooms and called them standard rooms, available for award redemption. But they’ve taken things a step farther. They also only offer standard rooms for sale on 3 night stays, or depending on the season sometimes 6-night stays or a slightly different combination of nights.
Of course Hyatt is not alone in facing these challenges. I’ve written about numerous Hilton properties not releasing standard awards. Usually I can get the Honors program to crack heads at the property and get this fixed.
It’s a constant game of whack-a-mole with some hotels who want to reap the advantages of the program without honoring its spirit. That’s endemic to the asset light business model, where the chains have a common marketing platform but don’t own the hotels (although the Andaz Maui had partial Hyatt ownership which makes them even more of an outlier).