Hyatt has announced a major change in the breakfast policy at Hyatt Place locations effective November 1, 2018: breakfast will only be free for World of Hyatt members who book direct. This is a negative change for those who might book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or third party agencies like Hotels.com, Expedia, Priceline, etc as those bookings will no longer qualify for free breakfast. Hyatt also announced the addition of an early check-in benefit for Explorists at Hyatt Place locations, though it doesn’t represent any significant change over the status quo.
Hyatt has announced that breakfast will be free at Hyatt Place for members who book direct. If you book direct but are not a World of Hyatt member, you will be able to sign up to become a member at check-in to receive free breakfast. However, if you’ve made a third-party booking, you will no longer receive free breakfast at Hyatt Place.
This is a negative change for those who book through third-party OTAs, including those business travelers who are required to book through a corporate portal. These days, most chains require members to book direct in order to receive elite benefits. The switch to considering breakfast at Hyatt Place properties an elite benefit (even if granted to all program members right now) makes Hyatt Place less competitive than limited-service brands from its competitors.
Personally, I find this change disappointing since I have recently discovered the value in having the space of a Hyatt Place room when traveling with an infant. Most of my Hyatt Place bookings are direct (usually on Hyatt points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards), so this change won’t affect me on an average stay. However, when cash rates dictate a better deal on Ultimate Rewards points than Hyatt points, I’d rather book through the Chase portal than transfer points.
I further find it a little surprising given Hyatt’s already limited footprint and the fact that Hyatt Place locations often face direct competition from limited service brands from larger chains that offer free breakfast for everyone (Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites, Holiday Inn Express, etc). This seems to be a move that makes Hyatt less competitive.
That said, while I have thoroughly enjoyed the benefits of top-tier status at some of Hyatt’s best properties around the world, I’ve often bemoaned the fact that Hyatt elite status gives almost no benefit at the vast majority of Hyatt properties (since Hyatt Place and Hyatt House account for well over half of all Hyatt locations worldwide, where there often are no meaningful room upgrades and breakfast is free for everyone). Guaranteed late checkout is the only key benefit at Hyatt Place and House locations for Explorists and Globalists — and I’ve occasionally received pushback on even that. This move to begin limiting breakfast to members could certainly turn into an elite status requirement for breakfast down the road – so perhaps Hyatt heard my complaints and decided that charging for breakfast was the way to woo me back someday in the future :-).
Early Check-in for Explorists
Along with the disappointing news about breakfast, Hyatt announced that Explorist elite members will now be able to check in early based on availability (or “market and occupancy” as they put it) as early as 9am at Hyatt Place locations starting in 2019.
Early check-in is awesome when you’ve just arrived at 8am via an economy class long-haul flight, jetlagged and ready to decompress, so this will no doubt come in handy now and then. That said, announcing that early check-in will be available based on availability is kind of like announcing that toothbrushes will be available for free at the front desk based on availability: it’s always been the case and will always depend on demand. I would put my early check-in success rate at around 95% over the years for those stays when I arrived early. I have more often run into an issue checking in immediately when arriving at 3pm or 4pm (stated check-in times) than when I’ve arrived at 10am or 11am. It’s nice that this is getting worked into the program terms, but without any sort of guarantee a la SPG’s My 24 program, it doesn’t seem like a substantial change. Further, saying it will be based on “market and availability” tells me that markets like New York City or Hawaii will likely always claim high occupancy and rarely/never honor this one.
Still, it will come in handy in the right situations and represents and attempt at making Explorist status ever-so-slightly more meaningful.
It’s somewhat surprising to see Hyatt make the Hyatt Place brand less competitive for third-party bookings. On the other hand, we knew they were testing paid breakfast at a handful of Hyatt Place locations and could have assumed it might lead to something like this. Furthermore, elite benefits are usually reserved for those who book direct, so it isn’t surprising to see Hyatt make a further move to encourage direct bookings.
Note that Hyatt has said that they will continue to honor free breakfast for those bookings made before this announcement, even those slated for check-in after Novermber 1st.
H/T: The Points Guy