No, Hyatt’s Program Changes Aren’t Against the Law. Why Do You Ask?

Reader Tokyo Hyatt Fan emails me to argue that changes to Hyatt’s loyalty program going into effect March 1 violate the Gold Passport terms and conditions.

The implication is that since this is a(n adhesion) contract with members, it’s a contract violation, and should be legally actionable.


Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur Sky Check-in Lobby

Hyatt Gold Passport’s terms and conditions say,

The Hyatt Gold Passport program may continue until such time as Hyatt Gold Passport at its sole discretion elects to designate a program termination date. Hyatt Gold Passport has the right to end the Hyatt Gold Passport program by providing written notice to then Active Members six (6) months in advance.

Since the new “World of Hyatt” program launches March 1, Tokyo Hyatt Fan argues that we were given only 4 months’ notice of the ‘termination’ of the Gold Passport program.

You don’t have to be a lawyer to know the basics of contract law, as expressed in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome:

One Mile at a Time seems persuaded by this,

[I]t’s a bit surprising to see that Hyatt is violating their own terms with the introduction of the World of Hyatt program..

I get the frustration, I really do. Members who qualified for top tier Diamond status with only 25 stays and fewer than 50 nights will no longer be as rewarded through elite status — starting in March 2018 (since someone qualifying for status on 25 stays in 2016 will remain a top tier ‘Globalist’ with even better benefits through February 2018).

And Hyatt does call “World of Hyatt” a ‘new program’.

I don’t think this is a winning legal argument though.

  • It’s not obvious to me that Hyatt is terminating its program. Everyone keeps their points, there are no changes in the redemption tiers of the program. My Hyatt points remain my Hyatt points.

  • They are renaming the program and modifying elite benefits, but this doesn’t even materially affect the majority of members who are not elites. As long as everyone keeps their points, and those points are roughly worth the same, that’s a pretty good indication that the program hasn’t been terminated — a marketing rebrand notwithstanding.

  • Those same terms also say, “Hyatt Gold Passport may change the program rules, conditions, benefits, or awards pertaining to the program at any time without notice.”

  • There are absolutely no damages even for elites, because even those folks with just 25 stays and 25 nights in 2016 will be ‘Globalist’ members through February 2018 — with net net better benefits (more upgrades and more personalized service). So they don’t see a material dimunition of benefits for 14 months.


Park Hyatt Sydney

Hyatt may call this a ‘new program’, we have plenty of notice before any elites really see fewer benefits, Hyatt can change benefits without notice, and the points program is not ending we can still use our points and the core of the message is that doesn’t even change at all. Terminating a program means ending it, not changing it.

Let’s pretend for amoment though that we could force Hyatt to wait until January 2018 to start the new program. What would the practical effect be? Nothing, other than to put off the new Globalist benefits that requalified Diamonds will otherwise get to enjoy starting in March.

I wouldn’t mind an extra 10 months of Diamond check-in amenities, but ending those just is not a program termination. And wishing Hyatt kept rewarding 25 stay Diamonds doesn’t make it so.

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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Comments

  1. I read OCaaT’s post on my first cup of cafe — did Tokyo Hyatt Fan seriously suggest reporting to the BBB and suing in small claims court? Seriously? I get that the 25 stay crowd is disappointed but seriously?

    And could the blogosphere PLEASE stop claiming/pimping the “more upgrades” scenario? We have NO idea how this will work in practice but if experience with other chains is valid, we’re likely to see the same BS of suites being unsold and being “upgraded” to a Club room. Yippee-skippee. It’s a putative benefit at best…

  2. I have been Hyatt Diamond for about 13 consecutive years (amazingly still far from “Diamond for Life”). 60 nights is not an issue for me. The take away that I don’t like is the amenity. Those 1,000 bonus points really add up. Also getting free 1-4 level nights that expire is useless. I use my points at luxury properties. I’m also Platinum with Marriott. I used to choose between Marriott and Hyatt. Now I may be choosing between Marriott and Starwood. I think Hyatt should have consulted with frequent guests like me before making those changes.

  3. My (non-lawyer) take is that it technically a violation of the HGP Terms and Conditions. But if anyone bothered to litigate, even if they won, Hyatt could easily just announce that the HGP program would continue indefinitely, but oh by the way, there are immediate changes to elite levels, benefits, and the program name, none of which are prohibited…

  4. @Gary I can’t say I agree with you. Come March 1st 2017 Gold Passport is dead and people, even newly minted Globalist, will be losing tangible benefits. But the larger point is while Hyatt is taking some aspects of Gold Passport and implementing them as part of WOH, WOH is still a new entity; Hyatt has even said as much. WOH is not a tweaked version of Gold Passport. It is an entirely new framework that just so happens to be caring over some aspects of Gold Passport. A very rudimentary analogy: a 25 year old car has an engine and wheels just like a brand new car, but I’m pretty sure they are two entirety separate entities even though they share some basic characteristics.

    As for only delaying WOH, I do tend to agree with you there. I think WOH is a major misstep on Hyatt’s part (for a multitude of reasons many others have echoed), but putting up a fight about when WOH is implemented is almost a matter of principal at this point. Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand when confronted by a long list of poor decisions, and frankly sometimes you just have to stand up for what is right even if it’s a futile effort. Regardless, Hyatt will be losing my business going forward. And just to clarify, it’s not just the 25 stay Diamonds that are unhappy. From a cursory review of online forums, blogs, and social media the diversity of dissatisfied members spans the spectrum. Not to mention, where are all the supporters of WOH? Are they all internet illiterate? Either way, all one needs to really do is watch Hyatt’s stock in 2017. That will be the true litmus test as to the success, or in my opinion, the damage caused by WOH.

  5. I feel for the Tokyo Hyatt Fan Guy. Heck, his blog is the reason I’m staying in the HR Tokyo Atrium suite in a few days. I would imagine that 25 one-night stays was the key to his continuing status. I’m a 50-night-per year qualifier, and I can’t manage 60 with leisure stay. I need to stay employed to enjoy travel, after all.

    It might be time for him to be Tokyo Starwood-Marriott Guy; that’s the switch I’ll be making since they still manage to appreciate 50 night / year guests. The only way that Hyatt is going to learn that they can’t do hostile things to us is for us to vote with our wallets.

  6. Their marketing got ahead of the legal. It happens. I agree this is a modification and name change, and not a termination, but the marketing is a problem. Not a legal case I’d waste my time on. It is just a “gotcha” with no real damages.

    It’s also probably fixable with a simple modification to the T&C unless Hyatt has actually formed new entities that make the change infeasible.

  7. At this point it’s a pretty much “etched in stone” other than some tweaks and occasionally “bonus” incentives to adjust for market conditions. SPG most certainly when fully merged into Marriott be 75 nights for PLT and that’s fine. Hilton and IHG has the similar tiered system. Sure there are many of us out there that are not happy with the new bench mark, but then nothing is free in this world and FF programs are being tighten thanks to our friends at “equity capital” and will continue to. I see their affect in my world of construction, they have been buying suppliers up all over the country and guess what material prices are increasing and increasing.

    My only issue with this whole thing is Hyatt’s foot print around the world versus other chains, that provide to be an issue. I made qualification two months ago with 47 nights and 27 stays, but slowed because as a LFT PLT at Marriott I wanted to try some of the SPG upper tiered properties and happy for it.Sure I will miss the Park Hyatt’s but then there is the Ritz and St.Regis under Marriott.

    Let’s all get through this damn election, the Holidays and see what Jeff has to say.

    Good job Gary.

  8. Gary, if your basis for judging a program modification vs. termination is based on 1. The points not expiring and 2. The points are roughly worth the same, then how would you classify Alitalia’s program? Alitalia’s program is always set to “terminate” every two years or so, except they bring in a “new program” and transfer all the points. Would you call that a modification too?

  9. @Gary – As a bit of a non sequitur, what benefits now accrue with the Hyatt card? Do we get Explorist?

  10. @Gary —> Agreed. Not legally actionable.

    @Jonathan —> Different program; different rules? (I don’t know; haven’t read ’em.) But applying Hyatt’s T&C to Alitalia makes no sense . . .

  11. Bloggers like you who act outraged and ‘violated’ advance and drive and drive such emotions and feelings. Reflect on what part you had in all this for once.

  12. @Jonathan First of all, Alitalia historically DID terminate all miles in the old program but would let you earn those miles back as bonus miles if you flew Alitalia flights. They’ve recently changed that practice, which was a workaround and artifact of Italian law. Alitalia also would introduce new award charts with new programs as well.

  13. They did Charlie Brown’s football some people with the making them requalify for Diamond and then taking away their welcome amenity.

  14. Gary, my take is from a different angle.

    By carrying (and paying for) the Chase Hyatt Visa Card, I am automatically granted Platinum Status in HGP. Having Platinum Status gets me automatically to Gold Tier Status within MGM’s mLife program–with all of its perks.

    My understanding is that having my Chase Hyatt Visa Card will now only get me automatically to mLife’s Saphire Status–which is a substantial and material downgrade. And since I have already paid Chase’s annual fee (through September 2017), I am losing something in March that I have already paid for.

    Am I missing something here?

  15. @Gary: “artifact of Italian law”

    I’m still waiting for them to extradite me over my speeding ticket.

    The Hyatt change is neither illegal , immoral, or unethical. Prove up your damages.
    The commenter who said the suite awards can never be used–I’d say he’s generally correct. Starwood properties routinely fail to upgrade to suites when suites are for sale except outside the US–in which case you don’t need the upgrades.
    I haven’t tested Hyatt yet.

  16. @Gary. Understood, but my understanding is that it will still be 60 nights in 2017, and 55 onward. Either way, it’s more nights than I can spend away from work next year, and I’m not going to design weekends around mattress runs.

    I’m glad to hear you won’t be suffering for this. At least you won’t need to compete with me when I get my DSUs on 3/1/17. 🙂

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