Upgrade Policy Changes and Other Developments at My Favorite New York Hotel, the Andaz 5th Avenue

About six months ago Jonathan, the General Manager of the Andaz 5th Avenue, moved over to Hyatt corporate. His role was filled by the Director of Rooms from the Park Hyatt Washington DC. Most things remained the same, but a few things changed.

I haven’t been to New York much the past few months, or if I have it’s been for a specific purpose that’s had me staying at another hotel, it’s been for a flight connection, or it’s been a same-day in and out so no hotel stay needed. A far cry from a time not too long ago where I was here pretty much every week. So I haven’t stayed at the Andaz 5th Avenue in awhile, and I haven’t reported on things here in even longer – at least six months – since I realized I was over-covering the property (hah).

Diamond Free Room Service Breakfast Benefit

I had heard that the breakfast benefit had become more restrictive, but that turned out not to be the case. When I began staying at the Andaz the breakfast benefit was taken either in the restaurant or through unlimited room service. What was nice, even, about the room service was that no check was delivered to Diamonds, it wasn’t a matter of billing it to the room and having the bill removed at checkout. They just never brought one over in the first place.

Unfortunately they were being a bit too generous it seems. The Andaz Wall Street used to provide a $50 breakfast credit taken either through room service or in the restaurant, and the room service option was taken away. At one point the room service option was removed at the Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle, though I’ve seen recent reports of Diamond members being offered to take their breakfast benefit via room service again (though theirs is also one of my favorite restaurant breakfasts).

The Andaz 5th Avenue didn’t get rid of room service, but they limited the benefit to $75. Certainly there were guests truly taking advantage, ordering everything on the menu. But they were by far the exception, and the food cost is actually quite low, my favorite lemon poppyseed pancakes represent about a dollar and a hlaf’s worth of ingredients. And there was something so undulgent, so classy, about the way they used to do breakfast. Still, $75 is more than reasonable. The quality of the food is good. And there’s just something wonderfully indulgent about quality room service breakfast that you don’t have to pay for.

Further, it seems on examining my bill that though they mention a $75 credit they actually removed $100 (room service isn’t cheap, and I did go a bit overboard in any case):

Free Non-alcoholic Beverages from the Minibar and Free Internet for All Guests

Of course the whole Andaz brand offers the other indulgence of minibar, something I otherwise only partake of at Intercontinental hotels because through Royal Ambassador status with them all of the beverages are free. At Andaz it’s all of the non-alcoholic beverages, plus the snacks (of which there are just a handful). Still, room service breakfast and minibar at no extra charge, plus internet free for all guests, are nice offsets to the room rate (which is at a reasonable price point for the area and the city in general).

Of course for the alcoholic side of things there’s also a free happy hour in ‘the Liberty’ off the main entrance in the evenings (where you can also find a refrigerator with bottled water, any time).

Confirmed Suite Upgrades

What has changed, though, is the room assigned for suite upgrades.

When the hotel first opened they really did upgrade diamonds to the best available non-suite [i]at checkin[/i], meaning whatever was available and clean at that moment. They didn’t do any pre-assignment. And that led to lots of frustrated Diamonds, because sometimes at the time of check-in that best room might be a tiny room on the second floor. So the system that they moved to is to pre-upgrade Diamonds 2 room categories when possible, but at least 1, so that they would be assigned the best room available in that category. That seemed to help.

But for confirmed upgrades — either with Diamond suite upgrade certificates, or redeemed by any member with points, they’ve changed the room category they assign.

Confirmed suite upgrades are now to a Splash Suite rather than the Andaz Suite, and that’s good and bad — much bigger room that most prefer, no balcony like many of the Andaz Large Suites have, but also far fewer of these suites so it’s much harder to confirm one.

I had stayed in one before on a one-night stay when i checked in late (not using a confirmed suite). I wanted to see whether the change was official so I confirmed a suite with points on my most recent stay, and it originally wasn’t available but the thing about Hyatt is they don’t ‘wait list’ the upgrade, often suites will open up closer to the stay when they aren’t initially available, and whomever is on top of it can get it by following up.

Funny thing, though, I actually prefer the ‘smaller’ suite — although that’s not quite correct, there are several different smaller suite. There’s the Andaz Suite and the Andaz Large Suite. Some suites have balconies and a few have quite large balconies (that have actual furniture rather than just being walk-outs). They’re a nice place to drink morning coffee and read the paper in the spring and fall.

The Splash Suite doesn’t have a balcony, but it has a huge couch (really, a double coach — about the length of two from the smaller suites) and a more comfortable side chair that’s wide enough, has bigger arm rests (I can rest the side of my laptop on an arm), and swivels. So that’s a plus.

And it also has a library view, which is nice but not especially important to me.

The hotel won’t confirm upgrades into anything but the Splash Suite apparently so if they don’t have one of these prized rooms you’re out of luck. I need to come back and not confirm an upgrade to see whether they’ll provide the lesser suites on arrival to Diamond members or not (they aren’t required to upgrade to suites, so it depends how they categorize these other rooms, though I used to be a regular enough guest here that I’d often get the upgrades without confirming them in advance anyway).

As a result of all this I’m torn on the new room category they upgrade to, though most will probably like it especially those who plan far in advance.

I don’t entirely understand why those chains that do upgrade their top tier members to suites don’t usually upgrade to anything but a standard suite. There are some hotels where that standard suite is just really impressive — the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur for instance and the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi — but often it’s just a double room. That’s the ‘policy’ at Starwood and Hyatt. But they can give out those suites when they wouldn’t otherwise be booked, why not offer the better suites on arrival to your best customers if they are sitting empty day-of?

The program where I’ve gotten the most impressive suites has been Intercontinental’s, because many hotels follow a ‘2 room category upgrade’ policy (whatever you book you get two room categories higher). That’s not the official terms and conditions, but in many places that’s the practice for how they upgrade Royal Ambassador members. Some hotels ‘cap’ how high a room you can get an upgrade to. Others don’t, so that’s how I wound up with a Diplomatic Suite at the Intercontinental Bangkok, Ambassador Suites at the Intercontinentals in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and the Presidential Suite a couple of times in Manila.

I suppose on the whole I have to applaud the better suite category now at the Andaz 5th Avenue, even if it means space for a confirmed upgrade here is no longer a gimme and also that I lose my balcony.

Minor nits about the hotel

Probably the two complaints I hear the most are that the bathroom lacks sufficient lighting — and really, it depends on the room, because in some rooms if you lave the curtains open you can get plenty of outside light into the bathroom and in others you cannot — and that the ‘blackout curtains’ don’t keep out enough light because there’s a good inch of space on either side that’s uncovered and light still comes into the room. Neither has really been an issue for me, I don’t really want to look that closely at myself anyway andI don’t need it to be pitch black to sleep just fine. But those issues are bothersome to some.

My ‘thing’ here is the lemon poppyseed pancakes at breakfast. They’re still quite good, but they were different on this stay — less custardy. I think they normally (or used to?) cook them on the stove top, but this time they rose more and didn’t darken nearly so much and I’m guessing were cooked in the oven instead.

Not Cheap – But Reasonable for Manhattan

Service is reasonably good, rooms are large, there’s included value-adds and with tons of suites below the Splash Suite level there’s good odds for Diamond members to get upgrades and the breakfast is great. All that makes it my favorite hotel in New York. The thing is though the room rates aren’t usually high enough for me to justify spending 22,000 points, it’s in the top Hyatt Gold Passport redemption category (six). I can sometimes get rooms there for a price starting with a 2. Usually I see the place in the 3s. Which isn’t crazy for a nice place in New York, though of course it’s not on part with the Plaza or Peninsula. It’s an overall good Manhattan value in what for many purposes is a good location. Though if you’re looking for the cheapest stays there are certainly other options to be had — via Priceline, Hotwire, some non-chain boutique properties, and (much-)lesser hotels redeemable through Wyndham Rewards. Fortunately I had been blessed by a ton of Hyatt gift cards redeemed through a Points.com Amtrak transfer glitch. And this property suits me.

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. Highly useful analysis of the Diamond benefits. I personally live a 15 minute walk from the hotel, but like to stop by when friends are in town for business visits.

    In terms of rates, this is sort of in the hedge fund/banking/business district by Bryant Park and Grand Central so it’s far more expensive mid-week than weekends. That said, mid-week rates will go for $450-$500 during the week but drop to $300 on weekends (such is the case with many NYC hotels in Midtown!) and, as you noticed, not always worth the 22k Hyatt redemption. The add-ons like breakfast tend to also be quite pricey as these are typically expensed through the company. So it’s nice to be able to get in on these as a Diamond for free 🙂

  2. I enjoy the hotel but the andaz Wall Street welcomes me back with suite upgrades almost at every visit so they get my loyalty and their rates often start with a 1 on weekends

  3. @Michael – do you mean the junior suites at Andaz WS or the real suites? I’ve never gotten a real suite at WS and they no longer confirm into those either. Andaz WS is much cheaper on the weekends indeed, totally different demand for that hotel on the weekends vs weekdays

  4. You sound like an over-coddled, spoiled prick. “They cap my breakfast at $75” Whine! You are a sad fucking bore to read, you credit card-pitching douche bag. The only thing ruining good hotels are not sub-custardy pancakes, but you and the low class dregs you bring to these places…cheap ass, poor “aspiring” points-redeeming wannabes, lavishing 24hours of the good life on points because you can’t actually afford the real thing. i try to pay good money to stay away from you people, but credit card offers are making it tougher to get away. Congratulations on being lord of the flies. the good news for now is that there are places you’ll never go, and ill never have to run across your double chin because they actually require money, and not credit card points– four seasons, aman, and a million independents. Review those, you cheap ass fat fuck.

  5. The issue with Wall Street is you’re very far from the action and many things you want to see – Times Square, Central Park, Metropolitan, Theater District, Opera, Lincoln Center, 5th Avenue, Rockefeller Center shopping are all in the midtown area or North (though I am biased). Which explains why the rates start with a 1… unless you’re in NYC for business, they really need to entice you to stay all the way down there. 🙂

  6. Gary,

    I only stay in NYC on weekends so I never have to use a suite upgrade to stay at the Andaz WS. They often give me their standard Andaz Suite, but often I’ve received their large suite or even the buttonwood. As a bonus, I redeemed 22,000 points over the holidays for my family for their Andaz double and they upgraded me to a Large Suite.

    This hotel has been trashed lately on FT and other blogs and maybe I’m just receiving great service or maybe their service really wanes during the week. As a guest on the weekend, you have to deal with a deserted area — but since I love to go to Brooklyn and to the Village, it’s perfect for me — quick subway rides. At night, I’m in a luxurious room (for NY standards anyway) for usually under $200 — often I’ve used the Best Rate Guarantee to wonderful effect, too.

    The 5th Avenue property is a much harder sell for me. Yes, the location is ideal, but the prices are high and the complimentary diamond upgrades are meh — often, I have to use a suite upgrade here to get a lesser room than I would receive at the AWS complimentary. And the breakfast bennies at the AWS are way better — I love their buffets and have never had a problem with the bill, even when it exceeds $100. Of course, I don’t share your love of the poppyseed pancakes (too lemony), so factor that in.

  7. That’s why it’s good to be a Marriott Rewards Platinum member…no need to worry about any possibility of a suite upgrade.

  8. @Michael – I probably stayed at the Andaz 5th Ave that I’m getting better upgrades as a frequent guest and not just on status. But the confirmed upgrades are now to a splash suite at 5th ave which i think trumps WS. And the confirmed upgrades at WS are now to what used to be considered a jr suite… and we like different things at breakfast, WS disappointed me when they did away with room service credit…

  9. Wait a minute. Did you just say they messed with the lemon poppyseed pancakes?! Oddly enough that was the main reason I wanted to visit Andaz. Seriously. Can you provide more information on what exactly changed and how much it affected the quality and desirability of the pancakes? Do other locations offer the original style?

  10. @Dax – the lemon poppyseed pancakes were still VERY cook. Just less custardy. My theory was they cooked them in the oven instead of the stove top. I do not know if this is new ‘policy’ in the kitchen or a one-off. They could have been busy and needed the space up top, and so they did it differently. Not necessarily worse, just different, I like the custardy which you also get along with the burned look (that doesn’t really taste burned) from the stove top.

  11. Gary, I think @DAX was being facetious.

    @Pancake — that was the snarkiest snark I’ve ever read! Very enjoyable stuff — but one may wonder: why do you read this blog?

    @themilesprofessor, my joys are more brooklyn and the village, as stated before, than midtown, so the AWS is actually convenient and hassle-free.

    In the end, it’s how you’ve been treated and what you want to pay. As stated, when the rate starts with a 1, life can be grand.

  12. $75 isn’t so generous if it’s per room, not per person. Try getting breakfast for a family of four for $75 via room service in NYC!

  13. @Pancake – Well, that was a mouthful of bile from you, now wasn’t it? It would hardly seem to have been worth your very valuable time. Instead, you could’ve used just a portion of that time to add to your considerable personal wealth, no doubt virtuously obtained. That way, you could have been still richer and the rest of us would not have had to come into contact with your spewings. Gee, my mom used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice about a person, say nothing at all.” She would conclude that you must have been an orphan.

  14. Pancake is excited about Four Season’s recent announcement of a rewards program. He will soon see you sitting across the pool, Gary.

  15. @David – nah, FS is a proper luxury chain. They would cheapen their atmophere by offering stays to people who can’t really afford them, and so their rewards program will likely not offer ways to get rooms for free.

    While pancakes comment is a bit silly, he does have a point. FS will remain a good refuge.

  16. @pancake: mate, tell me where you’re headed next. I promise not to use points, and will pay good money to book a room right next to yours, simply for the pleasure of having you see my unshorn/unshaven/weather-ravaged pitiful face day in and day out, follow you around in unmatching flip flops, and dip my unwashed bollox in the same luxurious pool as you will do.

  17. Gary, I’m concerned. I too had targeted this hotel for getting some lemon poppyseed pancakes. Please keep a watching brief on this situation. I’d appreciate if you’d re-test this on several further occasions, just to keep us updated. We need to know.

  18. @Michael & @LadyLondon: As bizarre as it may sound I was actually serious about the lemon poppy seed pancakes. After you’ve traveled 10,000 miles to enjoy an authentic Thai meal 1,500 odd miles for a pancake doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. Especially when it’s located in a city like New York. Maybe the day will come when I feel like I’ve seen and done everything New York has to offer in my price range, but I’m nowhere near that point as of yet.

  19. @Pancake: why don’t you stay in non-chains and only fly airlines like SQ? You sound like an idiot if you can’t figure out how to avoid points/mileage travelers.


    Somebody who can afford to spend whatever they want on travel, but still prefers to do it for free/cheap.

  20. I think Pancake was across from me at the FS in Langkawi a few years back. I was knocking back the Tiger beers happily and loudly and he was pissed off that the ice was melting too fast in his G&T with a twist. Gary thanks for the always super TR and tips. I’ve contacted the GM and am all set for our upcoming visit. We hope to get an early look at the PH TS as well and will make a plan to visit in early ’14 once the kinks have been worked out. I’ll personally check on the quality of the Gin for Pancake.

  21. Dax – Pork soup dumplings (xiao long bao) at the original Din Tai Fung in Taipei are worth the trip everytime – alas that GH in TPE is a bit of a dump (still)

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