The Andaz 5th Avenue — and How Hotels Choose What Room Types to Use for Upgrades

Another blogger emailed me for my thoughts about upgrades at the Grand Hyatt Tampa, a property I’ll be visiting in September for the first time for Frequent Traveler University.

He was frustrated because the hotel confirms upgrades (using Diamond confirmed upgrade certificates or points) to a room type that is better than the base-level suite. There weren’t any of these rooms available during his stay. There were lesser suites, he would have been happy with one, but they weren’t initially made available to him. He pushed and apparently an exception was made.

Nonetheless he felt that the hotel was being less generous than they should be, not allowing confirmed upgrades into their base suite (which are more plentiful than the room category they do assign).

I thought this was an interesting take, and one which may be reasonable or unreasonable on a property-by-property basis. I don’t have a ton of context for this one. When Frequent Traveler University was announced for Tampa there was definitely a run on confirmed suites there! I got in too late myself, none were available.

Ultimately the hotel went above and beyond for my correspondent, I didn’t ask them to do so for me, so I will be enjoying my regular room at that hotel…

Hotels designate what room category to upgrade into for Diamond confirmed suite upgrades (and, for that matter, for suite free night awards and points upgrades).

There’s no question that:

  • some hotels have more suites than others, and
  • some hotels are more generous than others in what they consider to be their basic suite

And in fact some hotels play games with this.

For instance, the Andaz Wall Street used to upgrade Diamonds complimentary into what amounts to a junior suite. Confirmed upgrades got a pretty impressive suite. Then they renamed those junior suites “Andaz Suites” and they became the designated room type for upgrade. Much less generous, though technically compliant, I don’t think there is a definition of what constitutes a suite (eg must have a full wall between multiple rooms). Downgrading what the hotel will give you as a confirmed suite is frustrating.

A few months ago the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York changed the room category it confirms upgrades into — instead of an Andaz Suite, they confirm into a Splash Suite. This is a much bigger and generally more desirable suite. (I happen to prefer the Andaz Suite with balcony, but I’m weird, and that wasn’t actually the official room type for confirmed upgrades previously in any case).

The downside at the Andaz 5th Avenue — at least as I suspected at the time — is that there are far fewer Splash Suites than Andaz Suites. Bigger, better room but much harder to get. Tradeoffs.

Although I used a confirmed upgrade in June again, after my April report, and had no problem getting the room. Not generalizale, but a data point that counts against my hypothesis of scarcity.

I may have to revise my priors here, since the Andaz 5th remains super-generous. Rather than squeezing Diamonds ‘out of the good rooms’ this huge suite has become the standard Diamond confirmed upgrade. They also continue to offer Diamond complimentary breakfast via room service (even after the Andaz Wall Street stopped doing so). I’ve always been treated well here as a frequent guest — on this recent stay I had a small surprise waiting for my arrival. On my most recent prior stay I had mentioned to someone over the phone when ordering room service how much I liked their coffee. They had a bag of it waiting in the suite for me to take home.

So in their case I probably shouldn’t interpret the handing out of bigger, more mack daddy upgrades, as ungenerous.

Nonetheless, Gold Passport doesn’t enforce clear standards on what room a hotel has to upgrade into. It’s managed at the individual property level.

Hyatt of course is not alone in this — it’s the standard. There are plenty of complaints by Starwood members about hotels playing games with room inventory even with the new Suite Night Awards where the upgrade process is supposedly taken out of the hands of hotels and centralized.

Hotels also play games with room types for free night awards. I recently had to get Starwood to open space at the Sheraton Full Moon Resort in the Maldives when standard rooms were available for sale. The Westin Maui used to have a designated room type with very few rooms that they called their ‘standard’ room, making free night awards a relatively tough get. The Intercontinental Thalasso had one room they considered standard and open for points redemption. One.

It’s a constant issue between loyalty programs and individual properties. Hotels want to maximize their revenue. Sometimes they can do this by making their most frequent guests happy, or by developing a strong reputation for taking care of their chain’s frequent guests. Other times their model is limiting revenue-loss from giving something away free they think they could otherwise sell. So they figure out what’s within the rules, and do the minimum required. When they fall on the wrong side of that line, then it’s something the chain and loyalty program can get involved with correcting.

My most frustrating experience was the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins. In spring 2006 they got a new General Manager who hated upgrades. He created a new room category — his lowest room, added a fax machine, called it a ‘business room” and argued it met his obligation to upgrade to an ‘executive room’. Fortunately he has left. And the hotel faced competition within the chain from a new Intercontinental which delivers consistently good service.

I didn’t see what my correspondent described at the Grand Hyatt Tampa as shenanigans. They determined the room type for upgrades. It was better than a base suite though more scarce. When the room type is available it’s no problem to upgrade into it. And they even went above and beyond in this case and made an exception, agreeing to upgrade to a different room type.

Some hotels are more generous than others. When choosing a hotel for something other than a short stay on my own for work, I like to know something about their generosity up front and then I can make my decision where to stay.

And I don’t necessarily want consistency at all times. I would hate to lose my room service at the Andaz 5th Avenue or my cocktails on the beach at sunset at the Park Hyatt Maldives taken away — both benefits that are not ‘Gold Passport standard’.

Finally, for those of you who read all the way through this post, and since I discussed the Andaz 5th Avenue again I can share a really good restaurant recommendation I tried on that stay. If you make it out of the city, Chivito de Oro is a really good Uruguayan streakhouse in Jackson Heights. Thanks to @GlobeTrotScott for suggesting it!


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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 Milepoint.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. wow you went all the way to jackson heights for some steak? that’s like a totally different world from the city. if you’re ever in jackson heights again, you should go to the original pio pio for some GREAT peruvian food. the city pio pio locations just can’t compare to the original atmosphere (imo).

    also, having lived in nyc all my life, it doesn’t make sense for me to stay at the andaz 5th ave so it’s nice you made a post about it since that’s probably the closest i’ll get to it.

  2. +1 to @ang. The Andaz Wall Sreet and 5th Ave properties are two that I would love to stay in, but alas I live in NYC (and actually work 1 block away from the Wall Street property), so trip reports are the closest I’ll ever come as well!

  3. I stayed at the Andaz 5th recently, used the confirmed suite cert, but didn’t get the Splash suite, got the Andaz suite w/balcony. In-room breakfast option is nice, however, I prefer eating in the restaurant as it has more selections. Though, breakfast has a cap of $75, for two people it’s just right, however, if you have children, it will not be enough.

  4. @DWT. We live locally too but stayed at 5th Ave location and generally hated it. Was my first stay as a Diamond and I felt we got crap from the hotel. The only benefit we realized was in room breakfast which was so so food. The bagel was rock hard, etc.

    And until I get confirmed pics with blackout curtains, I’ll never set foot into their hotel again. IMHO the only way you get an upgrade here is by being a blogger and pulling the DYKWIA card as one did when given a crappy room.

  5. @Pegasus – that’s really interesting… personally I like the Andaz Suite with the big balcony (not just the walkout one) better than the Splash Suite

  6. Good to hear you made it out to one of my favorite NYC restaurants. Just go with a chivito al pan next time if you’re out there again ;). It is also a quick ride via taxi or city bus from LGA as well, will be stopping by myself after a LGA arrival next week.

  7. Glad I read all the way to the end for the restaurant recommendation.

    Jackson Heights is definitely worth a trip just for the food — but it’s easily and quickly accessible by subway and not at all “out of the city”.

  8. I just experienced what you are talking about recently when booking a stay at the GH Tokyo. The Grand Suite is their base suite but all upgrades and points stays book into a slightly bigger Grand Executive Suite. I wonder why? No complaints here though. I know bigger is not always better, but in this case, it probably is?

  9. I’m curious what your suggested course of action is when a hotel clearly doesn’t upgrade an elite according to policy. For example, I recently had a horrible stay at the Westin in Aruba, and one problem I encountered was at check in when the desk agent told me the hotel was 100% full and that there were no upgrades available for my stay. I had no internet access at that point, so I couldn’t check, but when I went onto their website from my room, I found there to be plenty of upgrades available, for the entire duration of my stay.

    I contacted @spg on Twitter, but no solution came of it. I’m curious what your thoughts are when this happens.

  10. @WanderingEntrepreneur – I would have contacted a manager at that point. I would also have taken a screen shot of the availability and opened up a file with corporate customer service

  11. For Hyatt, is there a way of telling at booking time what room they are confirming you in?

    One thing that’s great about Starwoods Suite Night Awards is you get a pretty complete room description when you request the SNA.

    I’m planning on staying at the Andaz 5th avenue (i’m only platinum at Hyatt), but am shy about using the points for the suite because I’m not confident about what suite I”ll get.

    Thanks in advance!

  12. @Gary, curious minds want to know: Are the lemon pancakes up to snuff again? On your prior visit, there was some question about where they were cooked on a stovetop or in an oven.

  13. I also used a certificate at andaz 5th. I couldn’t confirm until a couple days before my arrival because gold passport agents told me that the splash suites are the only ones I can get with the certificate.probably because the number of splash suites are very limited. Anyhow, I got lucky and got confirmed. Guess what, they didn’t give me the splash suite on the day of arrival. I asked why, the manager Joseph said the splash suites are only for diamond members and I am only a platinum member. That was very degrading. It would be nice if they handle upgrades consistently over time and with what gold passport claims.

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