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Update: Since AwardWallet reached out to Hyatt as part of reporting this story, the Hyatt hotels in this story have taken drastic corrective actions. Award availability at the Park Hyatt Aviara has increased from around 5% of future nights to 94% of future nights, with widespread ADA room availability.
I've been chasing points and miles for a good many years, and I have a high tolerance for the stunts we all need to pull as award travelers. Positioning to the wrong side of the country (heading in the opposite direction) for a Cathay Pacific flight in first class? Of course. Set alerts to notify me every time a new date drops at the Conrad Bora Bora? I'm on it.
But I've been lodging my loyalty pretty firmly with Hyatt for the last few years now and have continued to run into something that's less a “nuisance” and more like “discrimination.”
I've been taking a close look into various properties, especially those that are notoriously difficult with award availability. Along with games on reward redemptions, some of Hyatt's hotels are also crossing the line into non-compliance with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations, raising questions of legality.
Here's what's going on and my theory for why it's happening — as well as other award availability games Hyatt hotels are playing.
Hyatt's Award Availability Games Discriminate Against Disabled Travelers
Savvy World of Hyatt travelers are probably familiar with the games hotels will play to get out of selling award rooms. Hotels can put in place all kinds of roadblocks, such as minimum stay requirements, designating just one or two rooms as standard rooms, or outright blocking rooms for sale. While not all of these are against Hyatt's terms and conditions, blocking rooms for sale is one of them.
But what does this have to do with ADA regulations and disabled travelers?
ADA regulations state that guests with disabilities need to have the same ability to book hotel rooms as regular guests. This means that if a hotel has rooms bookable online, it needs to also have ADA-accessible rooms bookable online. If the ADA-accessible rooms are standard rooms, they need to be bookable with points. Not offering the same standard of care breaks the law. Here's the appropriate section from 28 CFR 36.302:
“Reservations made by places of lodging. A public accommodation that owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of lodging shall, with respect to reservations made by any means, including by telephone, in-person, or through a third party—
(i) Modify its policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities can make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms”
Hyatt Centric Waikiki
Hotels that like to play games with award availability are also doing so with ADA-accessible rooms. These rooms are “standard” rooms, meaning — if they were bookable online — they'd be bookable with points at the standard (read: cheapest) points prices. Such is the case with the Hyatt Centric Waikiki, which is already notorious for its award room policies.
So, rather than allowing guests to book the rooms they need, hotels are outright blocking these rooms. How do I know? I called and booked a room over the phone. While on the phone, the representative noted that the inventory for these rooms was blocked, so they had to get a manager to open one up for me to book. A few minutes later, I had a standard, ADA-accessible room booked, with cash, where none had been previously available. For what it's worth, I was asked if I wanted to pay with points, but I didn't have them on hand to use.
During my phone call, I inquired about the availability of these rooms. The hotel agent told me that the hotel had ADA space for the next several months with the exception of a single weekend or two. Yet that's not what the website showed.
So, to recap: Hotels are blocking out standard rooms because they don't want people redeeming their points rather than paying cash. This extends to ADA-accessible rooms — which are still available, but booking requires a phone call. This seems to be in violation of the law forbidding unnecessary obstacles for disabled travelers.
Park Hyatt Aviara
The Hyatt Centric Waikiki isn't the only hotel I've caught doing this. I also caught this issue at the Park Hyatt Aviara in California. When I called, an employee confirmed (over the phone) that ADA rooms were available and booked me into a “foothill view” room with the notation that I'd actually be placed in an ADA-accessible room.
However, my confirmation didn't reflect this:
What if I'd arrived to check in at this hotel? Management could have said I hadn't booked an ADA room and forced me to stay in the “upgraded” foothill view room, but that'd be another issue altogether. Note that ADA rooms at this property are “standard” rooms and thus should be bookable online and with points — as I've found on a few days:
Other Hyatt Award Availability Games
The Park Hyatt Aviara isn't just playing award availability games with its handicap-accessible rooms. Its most recent foray into exploiting Hyatt's terms and conditions occurred when employees refused to sell standard rooms under a standard rate. Instead, the rooms were only available as part of a package deal.
This kind of stuff isn't something Hyatt allows. In fact, it's shut this type of move down on multiple occasions, as Gary Leff at View From the Wing noted in 2021.
Since we reached out to Hyatt for comment, the hotel has apparently been taken to task. Where before you'd only find a handful of nights per year available as award rooms, the Park Hyatt Aviara now shows a whopping 64% availability for standard room rewards.
This is a good move, but it just goes to show how easy it is for hotels to circumvent Hyatt's terms and conditions until someone tells them to stop.
Statement From Hyatt
Prior to publication, we reached out to Hyatt via email to share some of our findings. A spokesperson provided the following statement:
Hyatt hotels make reservations available for accessible rooms in the same manner as non-accessible rooms and ensure that accessible rooms are eligible for award bookings when available. However, World of Hyatt members looking to make an award booking generally will not see accessible rooms in their search unless they are specifically searching for an accessible room, which is available as a search criterion in our reservations system. This process is in place in an effort to ensure that accessible rooms are available for guests who need them, consistent with applicable law and Hyatt’s purpose of care.
We can confirm that both Park Hyatt Aviara and Hyatt Centric Waikiki are not blocking any accessible room award availability. However, occasionally the hotels’ Free Night Award offerings are not available due to the hotels’ popularity with World of Hyatt members. We have found award availability for accessible room bookings at both Park Hyatt Aviara and Hyatt Centric Waikiki in early 2024 and room award availability is most often available closer (several weeks out) to a guest’s desired check-in date (we see availability for an ADA room at Park Hyatt Aviara in October) or for longer lengths of stay.
If World of Hyatt members have questions about award availability, they can reach out to the hotel directly and the hotel team can help guests with available point booking redemptions, they can call our Hyatt Guest Care Support at (800) 323-7249 or direct message @HyattConcierge on X (formerly Twitter) 24 hours a day.
Hyatt is committed to caring for its guests, colleagues and communities – and works to ensure guests’ experiences exceed their expectations. All Hyatt hotels have a longstanding commitment to celebrating and honoring the diversity of guests, colleagues and the communities they serve.
Since AwardWallet emailed Hyatt for comment and subsequently provided details of the properties we were highlighting in this story, points availability for handicap-accessible rooms at both Hyatt Centric Waikiki and Park Hyatt Aviara have significantly improved.
In general, Hyatt has done relatively little to leash the blatant flouting of its award program rules, which has done more than just enrage award travelers. Properties blocking out award nights have stepped over the line from “annoying” to “dubious legality” when they intentionally put obstacles in front of handicapped travelers. I'm sick of it, and I hope Hyatt will continue to take this seriously.
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