Rethinking Hyatt’s Decision to Drop the Passport Escape Award

This morning I wrote about Hyatt’s decision to drop the Passport Escape award from its program.

I like the award a lot, I used it myself earlier in the year, and I am disappointed to see that it’s going away on November 1. And not just because I hate to see options of any kind for members disappear, I viewed this as a really valuable option offered by Hyatt.

Sometimes I shoot first and ask questions later. I need to get better about holding my opinions until I have all of the information. Shortly before I posted about the change, I asked the Hyatt PR folks if they could comment on why they were eliminating the award. I didn’t hear back immediately. It’s not unreasonable for it to take a couple of hours. I need more patience.

I did hear back from Hyatt, in fact I got an email from Jeff Zidell, Hyatt’s Vice President for the Gold Passport program. And he gave me a perfectly good reason for their eliminating the award,

[W]e are making investments in those benefits that customers value and use. In this case, we had approximately 100 members a year redeem a Passport Escape award, and it did not make sense for us to maintain the training and communication infrastructure needed to support a benefit with such low usage.

That’s perfectly fair. They weren’t getting much bang for the buck by offering it. I knew about it, I liked it, but it’s not like even I’m writing about it a lot although perhaps I should have been.

I could fault Gold Passport for not doing enough to promote the opportunity to their members. But if it’s not something members are clamoring for such that they would even learn about the option, then I suppose my estimation of the value of the award may differ from that of the program membership as a whole.

So while I am going to miss the award — as will the 100 other people claiming it — but it’s probably not reasonable to say this is as great a loss as I thought.

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. The communication on this was definitely lacking. I started using Hyatt’s about two years ago and have never heard of this benefit. It looks like something that I would have used on at least one of my award stays. But I guess it’s hard to miss something I never used.

  2. On one hand, while 100 is a modest number of people, I’m sure there were a lot more, who knew about this redemption option and were working towards getting enough points/were hoping to use it some time in the near future (e.g. next summer, etc), like me, but now won’t be able to use.

    I was initially planning to use it in Maldives, Bali, Seychelles or other more secluded resorts where it is not uncommon to be billed $100 for a lunch. So I think this is a great loss to a lot more than 100 people, IMHO.

  3. I did use the Passport Escape award on our upcoming Maldives trip. We are high on UR points but low on cash so it’s a great redemption. I feel sad to see it’s gone as this will be our first and last time to use this type of award.

  4. That does sound pretty fair given those utilization numbers, however I would have loved to hear “and we are replacing it with a much better program…” rather than just finding another discarded benefit. Que sera, sera.

  5. I booked a Passport Escape a few months ago and I could tell that not everyone at Gold Passport knew what I was talking about when i tried booking it. The first woman put me on hold when I asked her a question on it. When I told her that I liked to book the Passport Escape, she kept asking me if I wanted to “think about it.” Finally I told her to book me on these particular days, so she placed me on hold. A few seconds later I was conveniently disconnected. The next person I talked to seemed like he somewhat knew what I wanted with the Passport Escape. He placed me on hold a couple times, but eventually got the Passport Escape booked. When he was unsure, I asked him if he gets many requests for the Passport Escapes. The CS said that he rarely gets a request for these because few people have/want to spend that many points. Makes sense that if you have that many points, you’re likely to be Diamond and will already receive complimentary breakfast.

  6. Other than the Maldives and other remote spots, I would never use the award. And if I get free breakfast at the Maldives, than not there either.

    Who wants to eat in the hotel in Paris for 5 nights, even if it is very good. I would include Bali in the “won’t utilize” category; don’t want to be at the resort every night.

  7. This is kind of as I thought when I saw the earlier post. The award is just too obscure to justify it. Moreover, it may have failed to attain favor because it was ambiguous. Yes, the terms and conditions indicate that dinner is app, salad, entree and dessert, but I can see people remaining skittish about booking.

    And a shame – I will re-up my Diamond this year but not likely next. Was thinking of redeeming points for a passport escape in 2014 when I would no longer have diamond breakfast

  8. I was planning on using this award next year when my Diamond status goes away…seems worthwhile to me. For a Cat 6, you get 5 breakfasts and 3 dinners for an extra 35K pts. I think this is good value in almost any international Park Hyatt, e.g. Sydney, Milan, Paris or Tokyo, even if you end up skipping a dinner or 2.

  9. I am disappointed to hear Hyatt is discontinuing the Passport Escape. I planned to use it at the Park Hyatt Sydney next year. I made Diamond last year and did not use it at Paris Vendome as planned. The escape included daily breakfast and dinner for 3 nights on a 5 night stay. The dining in category 5 or 6 hotels is usually supurb so this is an excellent value if you do not have diamond status. I too have found that many Hyatt reservation operaters know very little about the Gold Passport Program. I find myself explaining benefits and rules and waiting while they look them up. If Hyatt’s own employees are not aware of the benefit how can Hyatt possibly think most customers would be aware of the benefit? I love Hyatt Hotels but have become very disillusioned with continual cuts to the Gold Passport Program.

  10. I think the Hyatt website leaves a lot to be desired: searching for reward availability when missing the req’d # of pts, applying suite upgrades, booking this Passport Escape award, certain cancellations. I dread having to call in and explain what I need.

  11. Heres my turn to shoot and probably not ask questions later 🙂
    I certainly see the reasoning behind dropping these awards on the surface.
    However let’s look at the poor job Gold Passport has done in communicating the award option in the first place. It’s a failure IMO because Hyatt failed to promote and educate their membership base. Unfortunately it doesn’t begin or end with the Gold Passport Escape awards.
    Had Gold Passport loaded these unique and special awards online for members to book when trying to redeem/book 5 nights or more that members could have actually seen and been aware of I think we would be seeing a far greater reaction.Thats where both Marriott and Hilton are better marketing communicators which is odd when you think of how huge those programs are!

    Of course had Hyatt done the right thing then these awards also would have certainly been more popular. However there may have been a different excuse for eliminating them 🙂
    In the internet era having an award that you can only call in to reserve/redeem was a lack of smart decision making in the first place.Even I after 17 years in the program rarely thought of them because they were buried in quick sand!
    And if Hyatt was to really be a class act why do we the members have to find out we have perhaps 2 weeks to book/redeem before they perish by finding out on your blog or other social media channel?
    How about at least 30 days notice and an email to all members preparing for the change retraction in the program?

    Hyatt seems widely distracted with other priorities other than innovating yet they have time to keep cutting out value added components out of the program.
    Mind you this is coming from a member who doesnt really care that much about Escape awards its the principal behind it.Its nice to have the option!

    It seems after the good folks from Chicago did a bang up job making Diamond status a better tier sometime ago they threw in the towel in creating a more interesting compelling program. Now I am not ruling these bright folks out in the future but their last year or so things have gotten a bit stale on auto pilot.

    And as others have mentioned they do like using the Esacpe award. The problem I have with it all is that Gold Passport hasn’t yet announced any significant with ongoing improvements to the basic program that they said would be forthcoming. Nothing to replace or innovate after the elimination of G Bonuses.
    Wasn’t the reason for elimination given that they weren’t working?
    Or that they failed to post? Something unimaginable at any program 🙂
    How sad is it when Radisson Club Carlson looks more compelling promotionally with their limited but sensational free night offer after buying only one night.

    Gold Passport has been devalued and it continues with its decline because of foot dragging to add the right mix of options cash and points, discounts on multi stays and a whole host of benefits that the industry understands and implements but Hyatt continues to ignore or put off in silence.
    When you consider Hyatts smaller portfolio hotels IMHO they should be working a lot harder at creating value for their members in a wide variety of ways.

    Of course there are many positive aspects that the Gold Passport folks have brought to the table like credit card partnerships and improved elite benefits but the topic going forward IMHO is the continued decline of what they continue to seriously neglect………………

    In closing let us not forget about what has always made the “Little Program that Could” exceptional
    It is the historical past of the Gold Passport creators to come up with the very compelling features and program infrastructure that is and what was Gold Passport to this day.
    A program that differs from it’s a competitive set. One that is refreshing and timeless with unique ways for members to create special experiences and be drawn to all that the Hyatt Program had and has to offer.
    Stripping away repeatedly at the fine veneer of this program continues to make it simply common and that’s coming from one that doesn’t care if they ever bring Faster Free Nights back.

    Thanks Gary for bringing this to our attention.

  12. Possibly not too great a loss, but yet another promo takeaway from the only major program that still doesn’t have a cash and points option, and still doesn’t give stay credit for award nights. My stays are usually elsewhere these days.

  13. Well said Don. One of my favorite benefits for Gold Passport members that was eliminated was complimentary room service tea or coffee. Really made my stays special.

  14. @Explore – Marriott and Priority Club do not give stay credit for award nights either, only Hilton and Starwood do. Marriott does not have a cash and points option, although they disingenously say that they do — Marriott’s version of cash and points is that you can combine paid nights and award nights on the same reservation instead of having to book two separate reservations.

  15. I was going to use this award on a trip to Kauai this spring, and am very disappointed it’s ending (I’m 27K points short right now). I’m surprised more people didn’t know about it; it’s right on the Gold redemption options page.

  16. David Most folks who are in a wide variety of programs are busy working,traveling and lead very busy lives. Of course the readers of this blog and those on Flyertalk and Milepoint or other such similar sites are the more likely dedicated and program savvy who may take the time to learn more about their chosen programs.

    It’s been my experience from the focus groups both business and leisure travelers that they don’t take the time to read and learn many aspects of even their primary programs. Some of the smarter programs have cleverly run tutorials and incented members through bonus points by actually having members learning their programs 🙂

    Quite simply a smarter well informed program member that knows their options is a far more likely higher revenue better engaged customer. The continued failure of Hyatt to more effectively market their brands and program shouldn’t result in a far less interesting and diverse program with less value added redemption options
    And even if something is cut something should replace it.

    Programs cannot run themselves on auto pilot. All programs require evolving/innovating to keep members interest and the likelihood of greater short and long term engagement. Marketing 101 Cornell University 🙂

  17. I’ve used this twice in the past 6 months: Once at the PH Paris-Vendome and also at the PH Milan. Great value at these properties if you’re not a Diamond! I got 4 cpp this way on these trips. Sad to see it go. Plan to book one more at the Vendome before the end of the month.

  18. This adds to the list of demised components of the Hyatt loyalty program. There are no more Faster Free Nights, no more Gx bonus offers, and no more Passport Escapes. Instead, Hyatt makes some bonus points offers that are similar to the old Gx bonus offers and usually requires more stays or nights for the bonus points to be earned. The best features of what made Gold Passport an exceptional program are gone. This is truly disappointing.

  19. To those who used this at the Paris Vendome, which restaurant(s) were you permitted to eat dinner in? Is the breakfast a full american breakfast? Also, has anyone used this in Aruba, and, if so, did you feel it was worth it? Thanks.

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