I Booked A Suite A Year In Advance, And Then Got Walked By Alila Marea

A year ago I had a lovely stay at Hyatt’s Alila Marea that was also a fantastic value on points. I redeemed 25,000 points per night against a $784++ room rate and then used a confirmed suite upgrade to move into a suite selling for over $2400 per night. I didn’t have to pay the resort fee (sorry, Marriott!) and as a Globalist I received free breakfast in their excellent restaurant Vaga and complimentary valet parking too.

Securing a confirmed suite here is tough because they have only a few on property, so I decided to book my 2022 stay a year in advance as soon as I’d returned home from my last visit. Since each confirmed suite upgrade can be used for up to 7 nights, I booked a week-long stay and then narrowed my dates closer to the trip.

Two weeks prior to arrival I received a voicemail and email from the hotel’s Front Office Manager asking me to call him. We connected, and he began by asking how my day was? I replied,

Since you’re urgently trying to reach me, I assume it’s about to get much worse.

The manager responded that I was “perceptive.” Hmm.

It turns out that the hotel had decided to book itself out for a private party over my dates, so they wouldn’t be honoring room reservations. No word which major company or Silicon Valley billionaire would be trumping me. But I was assured that I would be ‘taken care of’. I explained that I was looking for:

  1. a boutique 5* luxury hotel
  2. on the beach
  3. with spectacular food
  4. in a suite [traveling with our 3 year old I really do prefer this].

He really couldn’t argue when I made the case about how special his property is, which also made it harder to substitute something less.

The one time something similar happen to me before, with another chain years ago, I was moved to a better room in a better hotel and was given daily food and beverage credit and not charged a thing. Hyatt confirms their policy to offer a free comparable stay. According to a spokesperson,

While extremely rare, there have been instances when a hotel has been unable to honor a reservation due to unexpected business circumstances. Hotel teams work to avoid these situations; however when faced with the need to relocate a guest or guests, Hyatt’s policy is to immediately work to demonstrate care by issuing a full-refund, rebooking their stay for a later date or finding alternate accommodations at nearby hotels.

The manager suggested giving me a future free stay if I could change my dates, or a free stay elsewhere for the same dates. But two weeks out over a weekend in Southern California the limited set of options that would be comparable were sold out. He mentioned covering change in airfare as well, but I didn’t want to give up these dates.

  • Park Hyatt Aviara was completely sold out. 1906 Lodge wasn’t available.

  • Only standard rooms were bookable at Lodge at Torrey Pines and L’Auberge del Mar, which were offered.

  • Suites were offered at Hyatt Regency Mission Bay and Grand Hyatt San Diego, but neither appealed

A base suite was available at Hyatt’s Seabird Resort, but I didn’t consider that comparable to a suite at Alila Marea. The market agrees with me, because rates are nowhere comparable. No ‘Estate Suite’ was available at Seabird for my dates. So I pushed to confirm the Grand Estate Suite at Seabird Resort, as the closest thing to comparable with what I’d had. It took a few days, but the Alila confirmed this for me and set up direct billing (I could see the rate they were paying was ~ 60% off what Hyatt.com displayed). Essentially my stay would be billed to the mystery party buying out the Alila for several nights.

That was a good solution, I thought. I really hadn’t wanted to vacation in Oceanside, but that’s because my mental model of Oceanside still anchors to Animal Kingdom.

I’ll shortly share a new hotel review, of a property that I probably wouldn’t have stayed at, and I was more than thrilled with it.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Being that everyone else who is actually paying for their room is footing the bill for your stay and upgrades, you should probably stop your whining and go book somewhere that cares….maybe actually pay your own way maybe?

  2. I didn’t sense any whining. He asked for what he felt he deserved and worked with the hotel to find a solution that worked. Both sides seemed satisfied. If your point is that most people would have accepted less, I appreciate Gary sticking to his guns and letting others know that they shouldn’t just take what is offered and do their homework to provide solutions that work in your favor.

    And are you really upset that whoever rented out the hotel is having to stick to the terms that they agreed to, including making things right for people with confirmed bookings their takeover has displaced?

  3. @CommonSense, since your name says you have that, thats not how reward stays work, otherwise the hotel shouldnt have confirmed the suite upgrade to begin with. A confirmed reservation supposed to be a commitment from the hotel not to sell it to someone else, even if your stay is on points and someone else is paying cash.

    How would you like to make entire vacation plans and other non refundable paid bookings including flights, only to have your reward hotel stay cancelled on you .

  4. I dont think you re going to find much sympathy or outrage you hoped this post would get you.

  5. Did you get the points back too? Just curious how this all works, since it’s a rare enough circumstance.

  6. All the haters need to stop reading and move along. Geez. He’s sharing info and tips so you don’t get walked for less yourself.

  7. Was at Seabird in March, I thought it was lovely and extended the stay (not in a suite though).

  8. I look forward to your review of Seabird. We’ve been there twice using our FHR benefits. I can imagine that with a young daughter, the easy walk across the street to a wide beach could actually make Seabird a good choice. The restaurant is solid at Seabird and I like the firepits on the front deck where you can sit and enjoy the water view.

    Good job negotiating to something that had comparable value to Alila Marea.

  9. Would the haters please move on. Unwarranted and unhelpful bitching will result in fewer posts with good data points like this.

    How would you like to plan an entire vacation around a great award redemption, only to find that it’s been significantly altered at the last minute?

    Gary thanks for taking the time to share. Keep up the good work.

  10. There was no whining here. They needed him to change his plans and all he wanted in return was to be made whole.

    I’m happy he asked and received what he found to be an acceptable solutions.

  11. I like the post for what can be learned.
    Including, if this was Marriott you wouldn’t have been able to use points in the first place.
    Think I will increase my Hyatt stays as I continue to avoid Marriott.

  12. I am a bit shocked that in today’s “ take the customer for all you can” times, that there are still managers who still actually try to make their customers happy

  13. This is what I always assume will happen when I book a big-deal hotel using points/upgrades/whatever. It’s just too easy for them to ditch my res. Hasn’t happened yet, but one of the things I usually do is book a Plan B just in case. I can certainly understand the need for a suite while travelling with a 3 yrold, what a circus that must be!

  14. So you got your points back and a free stay? Is that the policy or only for Gary? Because last time I got kicked to the curb I was relocated to a comparable property but my points was not refunded.

  15. This is a class in how to work things out instead of being disappointed and unhappy. …”actually pay your own way maybe” He did pay his own way. Paying with hotel points does not equal free. There is also a cost with points as currency.

  16. Louis Vuitton rented the Marea out this weekend and it has been full of VIPs and their staff since Thursday.

  17. Actually, it is good to hear about the Hyatt policies and what to do when a hotel walks you out. I remember hearing a story when DoubleTree in Hilo, HI cancelled whole bunch of reservations…

  18. So far, great resolution from Hyatt, and Gary. Hyatt is definitely my first choice in stays. I just wish they had more presence in the middle range in Israel.

  19. Thanks Gary. But your quoted blurb from Hyatt “ Hyatt’s policy is to immediately work to demonstrate care by issuing a full-refund, rebooking their stay for a later date or finding alternate accommodations at nearby hotels.”… appears to be full refund, rebooking, or find alternate accommodation -and not- rerund AND rebooking or find alternate. Can you clarify? Thanks

  20. Curious how/why you originally picked the Alilia over the Park Hyatt given the pools at the park Hyatt are so much better for kids?

  21. Curious: are you not a Globalist? I presume so, which makes me wonder the extent to which your concierge was involved in the conversation? Seems like the kind of thing they should help to work through. Glad you got a resolution you were happy with–seems surprising they’d wait until 2 weeks out to contact you, but perhaps they were paying a game of chicken with their booked guests hoping some would cancel before they had to deal with it.

  22. @mike – I read the policy same as you it’s a refund OR alternative accommodation. Gary got much more than Hyatt policy if he was not charged any points or dollars at all by either Alilia or Seabird.

  23. Good tips for the average Joe. Not sure if it was mentioned in Gary’s post … was the manager aware that you’re the moderator of View From The Wing?

  24. @Greg @mike – No, the policy is

    (1) “issuing a full-refund,” and then
    (2) “rebooking their stay for a later date or finding alternate accommodations at nearby hotels”

    It’s a free stay – either somewhere else, or at the same property for alternate dates.

  25. Wow.

    I simply cannot understand who can read this and think there is whining. Mr. Leff booked a room a year ago, and two weeks prior to the stay, the property decided to kick out all reserved guests to accommodate a group that wanted the entire property. Wanting something comparable when there was so little notice is quite reasonable. This is the hospitality industry – fulfilling commitments is what they do.

    I do wonder who bought out the Marea on such short notice – given the guest relations issues that the Marea surely had to navigate, I hafta assume some major coin changed hands. Indeed, were I the Marea, I would have refused unless comeone was paying 3X going rates on account of the guest relations issues.

  26. That’s sucks sorry. Kind of awkward because I’m at the property now with my girlfriend. Someone booked a wedding last minute and the hotel wasn’t prepared. The service has been very very slow. Would have been fun to say hi to you, love the blog.

  27. Here’s a similar story from pre-Internet days: My parents, husband and I, and children booked three rooms in a hotel in Taoramina, Sicily. Reservations were made and confirmed by fax, and we had our confirmation. Upon arrival, we were told that the chosen hotel was sold out, and they were taking us to their sister hotel which was not well located, and smelled of mold. We told them they could do “you know what” with their sister hotel. I pulled out my Red Michelin of Italy, and found a spectacular looking place. My mother told them she was a travel agent, and we had three rooms for great prices that were much more fabulous than the original place. The best part was blood orange juice for breakfast.

  28. My family and I had a similar situation at the Ritz Carlton Santa Barbara last fall, it took a few conversation with management but we eventually worked out an on property solution that worked for both of us. They comped our entire stay but we didn’t get the 2 br villa. Reasonable compromises by both parties.

  29. While I appreciate the spirit of “fair play” when the hotel “compromises” with a customer, I don’t agree.
    Travelers that have accumulated “points” for being a frequent/loyal customer should be afforded more respect, not just the points.
    If we make a reservation and wish to use points and the room is available at time of booking, we should get it.
    It’s the whole point- we are loyal customers.
    And that goes triple for changing it because something better came along.
    While Hyatt accommodated, how much time was burned in the process?

  30. Something to think about for those who think the hotel should have no option for walking guests: If they’re forced into that situation, they’ll have to rethink how they handle awards and reservations and everything else in the first place.

    Faced with the likelihood that they would miss out on HUGE profits from these types of situations, most likely the result will be then finding a way to shield themselves from these situations and ultimately watering down the awards, benefits, accommodations, etc that they offer now as a means of not having to constrict their programs to minimize losses from reservations they wish they had not taken.

    All in all, if Hyatt had tried to hose their customers that would be one thing, but going so far to make things right that half the people responding to this story are convinced Gary is “complaining” while getting a windfall dropped in his lap is exactly the position I hope every hotel I stay at holds with regards to how they handle my reservation and I absolutely wouldn’t want to kill the golden goose over some glorified ideal of a hotel having zero alternatives to my reservation.

  31. Stop crying! This article is a joke and all you want is for them to give you more free shit! I know your kind VERY WELL!!!

  32. @gary. You got special treatment for sure. Hyatt My concierge and Hyatt Concierge Twitter both confirmed that ANY advance notice relocation does not constitute a walk, it’s refund OR comparable property, not refund AND relocation. Per Twitter statement, walk is only defined as upon arrival, day of check in.

  33. What are these comments I have been seeing more frequently — “First World Problems” ?? Are there Second World Problems? What made Gary’s problem a “First World Problem” vs. just a major problem for him?

  34. What I don’t understand is why the hotel waited until 2 weeks before the trip,. Cooperate events are not last minute events ….

  35. @mike – why would you take twitter as definitive? this is an official statement from hyatt corproate, not for my situation specifically

  36. Did you have a chance to research some alternatives or did you figure all this out during the phone call? Good to know if a similar situation arises.
    Also, did you get elite night credits?

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