For participants in travel-loyalty programs, award-pricing transparency means a published award chart. If you want to fly from A to B in business class, you’ll have to redeem 80,000 frequent-flyer miles. If you want to stay at the XYZ Resort in Fiji, it will cost you 35,000 hotel points.
Until late last month, Hyatt’s program, World of Hyatt, provided its members with just such award-pricing clarity. Every hotel in its network was assigned a category, from one to seven, each with associated award prices. So you knew that a free night at any Category 4 hotel, for example, would cost 15,000 points. And you knew that the range of award prices for standard rooms was between 5,000 points (Category 1) and 30,000 points (Category 7).
But then Hyatt added a new hotel to the mix, the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, and suddenly there was a new top award rate, 45,000 points for a standard room. No change to the award chart — the Miraval simply isn’t included in the seven categories; it’s an outlier. (Adding insult to injury, the 45,000-point price only covers a single person; there’s a 20,000-point surcharge for a second person in the room.)
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What’s more disturbing than the addition of a price-busting exception to the World of Hyatt award-pricing scheme is the language Hyatt added to its terms and conditions to give it cover for the change:
Category 1-7 Free Night Award is not available at M life Resorts or any property that is not included by Hyatt (in its sole discretion) in the category 1-7 classification system.
In other words, Hyatt can charge whatever it wants for an award night, for any hotel, whenever it chooses, for whatever reason.
So far, the only hotel that falls outside the published award chart is the Miraval. But the precedent has been set, and the legal justification for further subverting the award chart is now in place.
The World of Hyatt debuted just four months ago, replacing the venerable Gold Passport program, to mostly negative reviews from travelers and from the media. This new move, jeopardizing the program’s transparency, is yet another misstep in a program that seems headed in the wrong direction.
Reader Reality Check
Is this a one-off, or just the first in a death spiral of a thousand cuts?
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.