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We all like positive changes to award programs much better than negative “enhancements”, but there are a couple negative changes I want to mention that have recently impacted two of my favorite award programs – Hyatt and United.
Hyatt Eliminates “Platinum Extra Awards”:
About a week ago Hyatt announced that they would be discontinuing the Platinum Extra Awards that were given after every third eligible stay every calendar year for Platinum members. Platinum is the mid-tier elite level that was pretty easy to obtain via having the Hyatt credit card, having 5 eligible stays or 15 nights in a calendar year, by purchasing MilePoint premium membership, etc. The Platinum Extra Awards offered a choice of bonus points, food and beverage amenities, room upgrades and Regency Club access, and other similar awards.
Last year my husband earned Hyatt Diamond (top tier) status the slow and steady way, one business trip at a time, and he very much enjoyed the Platinum Extra awards that he would get every third stay once he became a Platinum member. He typically selected the points award (when available), and it was a nice taste of what Diamond status would be like when he attained it. The points awards could be easily selected online and he had no issues with the way the program worked. It was exciting for him when he earned another award.
However, these awards are getting the axe at the end of 2012 since, according to Hyatt, only 25% of the awards were redeemed. Due to the low usage rate, they have decided to dedicate time and resources to improving the program in new ways rather than administer a benefit that “members don’t value”. I love Hyatt, but I don’t think it is fair to say this is a benefit that members don’t value. Perhaps it was just a benefit that wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. It simply isn’t possible that Gold Passport members don’t value points, upgrades, and amenities. It is entirely possible that members didn’t understand well enough how to access these extras.
Perhaps it would have been much better if the awards were entirely managed at the hotel level the way that Diamond amenities are handled. If, on an extra third stay, a Platinum member were simply asked at check-in which benefit they would prefer, and it was delivered on the spot, the usage rate would have been significantly higher. I would have much preferred they tweak the execution of this benefit rather than eliminate the benefit. However, I suppose what is done is done, so here is what you can do if you currently have some Platinum Extras awards:
Platinum members will still earn Platinum Extras Awards through the end of 2012, and will have 90 days to redeem these awards. For answers to frequently asked questions related to this benefit change, please visit http://www.hyatt.com/hyatt/customer-…/faqs/faqs.jsp. They really are valuable, so don’t let any that you have go to waste unnecessarily. I love the Hyatt Gold Passport program, and I very much hope that they have some quality program improvements coming to make-up for removing this benefit.
Hyatt, please bring us some good news about the Gold Passport to ring in 2013.
United Blocks MileagePlus Access to Third Party Sites:
Last week United decided to no longer allow third parties like TripIt and Award Wallet access MileagePlus data for their customers. They are not at all the first airline to do this, but it really stinks as those are services that can really make busy traveling families’ lives much easier. I do not have the time to track everything independently, at least not very successfully, so these services were very useful for me. From what I understand, United didn’t express their concerns about the security of these third parties sites as much as they expressed they would be willing to pursue a “business relationship” with the sites. In other words, “show me the money”!
As for what you can do….you can share your displeasure with the decision via social media outlets, though I doubt that will do much good since there are several other airlines who have already gone down this path. You can also use this work-around:
United Airlines stated that they are happy to discuss a potential business relationship with us but so far we have not been able to formalize anything. As a result we are forced to stop giving you the ability to access united.com website using the browser extension. Instead you can forward your United statements to your personal email address that you have with AwardWallet.
You can either configure your mailbox to forward these statements and reservations to your AwardWallet mailbox or you can update your United profile with this email address. Keep in mind that we will forward any emails we get in your mailbox on AwardWallet from United to your email that you provided on your AwardWallet profile. In case if you want to set this up for multiple users under the same profile you can use different emails.
If you use Award Wallet, then you probably got an email with these instructions as well as some more detailed examples with the email addresses to use. I’m disappointed, but not surprised, with this move from United. I hope the two companies are able to work something out.