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Hilton just unveiled their second quarter 2012 promotion of Double Hilton HHonors Points or miles. This promotion starts on April 1st and ends on June 30th, 2012. This promotion is rather straightforward. You will receive either double points or double miles. You need to register to this promotion before your stay.

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If you want to earn miles, you need to choose between fixed or variable miles. Fixed miles are number of miles per stay (or nights in case of BMI) where variable miles are dependent how much you spend. In my case the fixed miles is always a better option. For longer stays the variable miles options is probably better.

Note that once you have chosen either double points or miles you cannot change the selection. Double points is better if you have longer and more expensive stays.

The list of non-participating properties is getting longer. Double check that the hotels you are intending to stay during the second quarter have not opted out from this. There are only six non-participating properties outside of the United States.

Here’s a list of participating airlines and their fixed mile options for Hilton stays. My favorite still is BMI that earns 1000 BMI miles per night regardless of the Hilton brand, and for up to 3 nights. Three night stay would thus earn 6000 BMI miles. Word of warning. Lufthansa is in a process of selling BMI to IAH, the parent of British Airways and Iberia.

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Here are the Frequently asked questions by Hilton: [click to continue…]

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You can now start earning and redeeming Flying Club points on Virgin America flights as well. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America just announced their partnership today.

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Although there are several airlines that have Virgin on their name; Virgin Atlantic (VS), Virgin America (VX), Virgin Australia (International – VA), and Virgin Australia (Domestic – DJ), they are only loosely tied together. Sir Richard Branson controls the Virgin Atlantic, although Singapore Airlines owns 49% stake. At all the other Virgin-branded airlines Mr. Branson is a minority owner.

The email that I got from Virgin Atlantic, where I have close to 700K Flying Club miles banked mainly due to Hilton and Hyatt promos, was very vague when it came to mileage requirements on Virgin America flights. It was easy to find the info about how the earning would work on the VX flights, but the info about redeeming was completely missing. Apparently the info is missing from the VS’s US website, but is available on the UK one.

Earning Flying Club Tier Points on Virgin America

This is very straightforward. You earn 1, 2, or 3 tier points based on the length and the ticketed cabin.

virgin-atlantic-flying-club-tiers-vx

Earning Flying Club Miles on Virgin America

This is relatively straightforward. Most of the discounted Main Cabin fares only earn 50% of the miles flown, the Main Cabin Refundable & Select + upgrades to Main Cabin Select earn 100%, and the First Class fares earn 150%.

You need to have a look at the fare class on the ticket you book to determine the actual fare class.

Main Cabin: S, L, M, U, E, H, B, V
Main Cabin Refundable: Y
Main Cabin Select Instant Upgrade: Z, Q
Main Cabin Select: O, W
First Class: I, D, C, J

Spending Flying Club Miles on Virgin America

Spending Flying Club miles on Virgin America is actually a good option considering that you only need to pay actual taxes that for domestic itineraries start at $5. There are no fuel surcharges (at least not yet) when you redeem for VX.

When I compare the redemption chart for Virgin America it is comparable for domestic US airlines for the economy redemptions. It is favorable for short haul first class i.e. up and down in the West Coast and to/from Vegas. The long haul first class for 75K is not that good of a deal.

It is somewhat weird that it appears if they are treating the Main Cabin Select as a business class when it is premium economy at best. It is double the number of miles compared to economy seats on the longer flights.

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Back in October, I wrote about if it makes sense to buy an Ambassador membership for InterContinental hotels. One of the things that you get, when joining, is this Ambassador free weekend night certificate.

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In the past you could book any rate (corporate/suites/discounted) for two nights. You would just hand the certificate at check in and they would only charge for the first night. This was changed two years ago, however. You need to use the intercontinental.com/AMBWeekend website to make the booking. If you cannot get the website to work, you can call the reservations and reference the rate code IBAMB.

This certificate can be used for Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday night stays. In the Middle East this is Thursday and Friday or Friday and Saturday nights.

The Ambassador Free Weekend rate is basically the best flexible rate. Most of the time you can save significantly by booking this rate and using the certificate, but sometimes a hotel can have sale rates that are far less than the best flexible rate.

At the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong the Ambassador Free Weekend Night certificate prices are exactly the Best Flexible rates. At the same time the hotel is having an advance purchase rates that are 10% less that the best flexible.

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Ambassador Free weekend Night certificate rates

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The Park Hyatt Sydney is having its grand reopening this coming Tuesday March 20th, 2012. The hotel was closed for about 11 months and started to accept guests again early February 2012. As is the case with hotel renovations most of the time, the reopening was delayed by months.

Not sure what is going on with the Hyatt Diamond status and international Hyatt properties. I have had a string of bad luck with properties lately when it comes to upgrades and the Diamond treatment. I have had bad stays at the Park Hyatt hotels in both Shanghai and Abu Dhabi. I did have a fabulous stay at the Park Hyatt Maldives in August last year and at the Hyatt Capital Gate (Abu Dhabi) in December. Again, I was not too satisfied with my stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney.

Location

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The hotel is located on the opposite side on the Sydney Cove from the world famous Sydney Opera House. Quite a few of the rooms do have a sort of a view of the Opera House from the outside balconies. You may have to dangle yourself a bit though.

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The area of the rocks, where this hotel is located, is rather touristy. There are often cruise ships parked on the terminal, right in front of the hotel, like last Friday when I checked in. The boats normally don’t stay for long, however, and it is nice to see them slowly leaving the harbor.

You can take a taxi from the airport. This is probably the best choice if you have more than a carry on. I was traveling very lightly as I had left most of my stuff to a hotel in Melbourne. I just took the train from the airport to the Circular Quay station. I managed to hit the morning rush hour and had to stand the entire journey.  From the Circular Quay station it is maybe a five minute walk to the hotel.

Check In

I had a morning flight out of Melbourne and arrived to hotel just after 9AM. I didn’t expect them to have a room/suite available for me immediately, and I was prepared to type away for few hours. They said that the room they had allocated for me was not occupied, but they would need to send housekeeping there to check it. That was fine with me.

When I inquired about an upgrade to the Opera or City King Deluxe, both are 75 square meters and rather large for a room, I was first told that they are not available. I opened Hyatt.com that showed that they were still selling at least Opera King Deluxe for the night. After the front desk clerk had typed away for a while, he came back and told that they only had one available for the night and that he couldn’t give that to me as an upgrade.

park-hyatt-sydney-availability-done

Park Hyatt Sydney is known to play games when it comes to the Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond member best room benefit. I probably should have called the Diamond desk in the United States at this point to get them to intervene on my behalf, but quite frankly I was tired and just wanted to have a nap.

The preparing of the room took for two hours, but I was able to use this time productively by working on some stuff. Unfortunately they couldn’t get me logged in to the hotels wireless network in the lobby bar area. There were authentication problems. The wireless access code that the hotel gave me and later when I tried to log in using my room number and last name, were not valid at this location. Luckily, I was able to just tether through my cell phone. The wireless internet worked just fine in the room.

There is something wrong with the location of the check in desk. I had really hard time hearing what they were saying to me as there was an awful lot of noise coming from the nearby road. I think that they should install some acoustic panels to deal with this issue.

Room 333

You can probably get the best idea of the room by watching the video and looking at the photos.

As it is often case with the newly renovated/built hotels, the bathrooms are oversized by sacrificing part of the living space. Personally I would prefer larger bedroom/living room set up. You can also keep the “door” open between the bedroom and the bathroom to make the room feel more spacious that it really is.

The toilet is in bit weird location because it is right when you come in to the room. It is not in the bathroom.

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The minibar at this location was stunning. I really liked the layout and the content of it.

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The kitchen table that is moonlighting as a work desk was fine. It was somewhat difficult to work on it, however. One thing I couldn’t understand was that the phones don’t have any kind of extension cord. You cannot practically move the phone at all. I was trying to make a call while working on the “desk” but it was not possible. I had to move either next to the bed or to area next to the the TV to make a call.

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Trying to operate the lights was also a difficult task. They should have an instructional booklet to show how to dim the lights. I like good design. It should never, however, be form over function as was most definitely in this case.

Not sure what was the deal with that Sharp TV. I would have expected a park Hyatt to have something in the lines of Sony or LG.

Diamond Amenity

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Unlike some international Park Hyatt hotels where the Diamond amenity can be as little as two apples, the Park Hyatt Sydney had a nice bottle of red wine and a small fruit plate. I always appreciate a hand written note that they had.

Fitness Center / Pool

park-hyatt-sydney-fitness-center-cardio

As I was in the third floor, the fitness center and the entrance to the pool were both only few doors down the hall. The fitness center had brand new LifeFitness machines. I had never seen these new treadmills anywhere else. The fitness center feels bit cramped, but considering the size of the hotel and the clientele, I am sure that it is empty most of the time.

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You can access the pool on the rooftop through the fitness center. There are some sun chairs around the pool. Not sure why anybody would spend time by the pool, however. All the people who are either walking in the bridge or doing the world famous bridge walk, can directly see to the pool area.

Breakfast

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I was trying to find a quiet place in the dining room where I could have had the breakfast on Saturday morning, but unfortunately it was impossible. I was seated next to a family whose toddler was rather noisy at times.

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There is a small “buffet” but most of the items you need to order off the menu. Not sure why they bother with that buffet at all. There were only some bakery items and cereal/fruits. My breakfast was otherwise good, but I didn’t like the smoothie that I ordered. There was way too much banana in it.

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Overall, the food and the service were both good.  I just didn’t like the dining room atmosphere that felt too busy.

Check out

On Saturday morning I received a phone call at 11:56AM to find out if I need help with my bags or transportation. It was obvious that they just wanted to know my departure time. I told them that I would leave by 4PM, which is guaranteed late checkout time for Diamond members.

Before I had managed to leave the hotel, I also received an email from Hyatt thanking me for my stay and welcoming me back to the hotel.

At the front desk I inquired why the reservation for Sunday was still showing up, although I had told them to cancel it on Friday. For some reason the Hyatt’s website had been acting up again (not really a surprise) and didn’t allow me to do it. I guess that they must have forgotten to do it, as I received the cancellation email when they were checking me out.

Price / Using Points

I don’t normally comment the price of the hotels where I am staying at, or whether someone should use points or pay. I do think that at 795 AUD per night, during the weekend, paying for this using cash doesn’t make any sense. This hotel goes for 22K Hyatt Gold Passport points per night. It actually can make sense to buy the Gold Passport points especially if Hyatt is running a promotion, and use them to pay for the room.

Conclusion

This is a nice Hyatt hotel, but not sure if I ever need to return. I have been to this property few times before, and I have never really though too much about it. It is nice if you are visiting Sydney for the first time to have the view of the Opera House, but I would rather choose a better location with service over the view.

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I am not too convinced about the quality of the refurbishment that they made. There were already huge stains (water?) on some carpets on the public area. Also, I kept hearing doors slamming very loudly. I am sure that they could do something about them.

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Last week, I had couple of InterContinental Hotels Group stays in Kuala Lumpur. I signed up for few new promos that I hadn’t done previously to see how/if they work. You can sign up for these promos using the following link and plugging in your Priority Club number and the four number promotion code.

These three promotions should work for all. The Elite member next stay bonus probably requires a Gold or higher status with Priority Club, however.

Anniversary Bonus Offer – 6102

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This is most lucrative of the offers. You will get additional 1000 Priority Club points per stay for 90 days after your sign up.  Just enroll just before your first stay to maximize the earnings.

Elite Member Next Stay Bonus – 5221

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This works for sure if you are a Platinum member, but could work for Gold’s as well. Doesn’t hurt to sign up, right? You will get 3000 bonus Priority Club points for your next stay. You will need to have the stay within 90 days after signing up. You can only earn this once.

Welcome Back Bonus – 2120

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You will get 1500 Priority Club bonus points for one stay after signing up. You need do stay within 90 days.

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I think that I have lost count on the number of buying, giving, sharing, or transferring hotel points to Dividend Miles promotions US Airways has already had this year. But, I don’t mind them at all as long as they make sense. Last week they announced the promotion of converting hotels points to Dividend Miles.

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US Airways just sent out an email blast about this offer, and it is up on their website as well. There doesn’t seem to be any problems for buying the miles & signing up for the Points.com to get the bonuses even if you didn’t get the email. The offer is not targeted.

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You can buy up to 50K Dividend miles at 3.5 cents + tax. The price of buying the 50K is $1881.25. You will receive the 75K miles immediate, and the 25K Points.com signing/linking bonus will post before June 5th, 2012. The price of the mile is lowly 1.88 cents. This offer is valid from March 15th to April 15th, 2012.

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This is one of the better recent deals for buying US Airways Dividend Miles. You will get instant 50% bonus for buying the miles and another 50% later for signing up with the Points.com. All you need to do is to either sign up for the Points.com account or link your Dividend Miles account with the Points.com profile you have.

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The Points.com has always managed the sale of US Airways Miles, although that is not always clearly presented. They provide this same service for number of other companies as well like Hyatt.

This offer is a great way to “purchase” international business and first class tickets by buying Dividend Miles.

Here are the Terms and conditions of this offer: [click to continue…]

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Everything that went wrong with my Park Hyatt stay worked perfectly at this Waldorf-Astoria from check in to check out. No wonder why this is ranked as number 2 of all the hotels in Shanghai according to TripAdvisor.  I made a reservation for same day arrival using free night certificate, and my reservation was almost instantaneously upgraded to a junior suite.

Unfortunately I don’t have the usual number of photos of this property due to leaving my digital camera to a cab.

Location

The hotel is situated right on the bund. You can take the Maglev train from the airport, and then a metered taxi to hotel. Taxi to the airport should cost around 180 RMB. That’s what I paid when I took a cab from the nearby Fairmont Peace hotel to the airport two weeks prior.  The fare from/to the Maglev station is around 40 RMB. Just be careful with the drives that they use the meter. I had a problem with the taxi driver that I took from the Maglev. The cab driver was trying to scam me.

Check In

The taxis dropped me off at the front of the hotel on the Bund side. There is a separate hotel entrance on the side street that I was not aware of. Anyway, there were two doormen that quickly radioed my name from the luggage tags to the front desk. This is really how it should work in five star hotels. By the time we got to the front desk, everything was ready and I was just escorted to the suite where the check in formalities i.e. scanning of the passport was done.

Junior Suite 2012

The suite was absolutely stunning. Even though it was called just a junior suite, it could have been as easily classified as an executive suite as well. In addition to the spacious bedroom there was a separate half sized room with a work desk as well.

The fruit display with cherries was the most impressive I have ever received at a Hilton property. In addition there was some hard candy on the other room and selection of desserts on the bedroom next to the television.

I was surprised to find Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul bathroom amenities.

Fitness Center / Pool

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Fitness center had modern equipment, but was quite small considering the size of the hotel. Same for the pool. The workout facility was not busy when I was there.

Breakfast

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The breakfast was very good that is complimentary for Diamond, and most likely for Gold members as well. You had a selection of items that you could order from the ala carte menu and rather extensive buffet.

Conclusion

This was really a very good Hilton family hotel.  The service is typically not so great even at “better” hotels in China. My stay at the Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai on the Bund was as perfect as it could have been, however. Wouldn’t hesitate to return and most certainly will.

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Last month, I wrote about airline parody videos about American Airlines that then American Airlines flight attendant Gailen David had done and posted on YouTube. These parody videos are mainly about American Airlines and its employee relations.

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According to Gailen, he was just terminated today for publishing details about American Airlines passengers (AA executives that were bumping paying first class customers) and promoting competitors on his website (Google ads).

It is uncertain time for American Airlines that tries to reorganize under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

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The new Priority Club One Say sale is on again. These discounted rates are bookable until 11.59PM EST on 15th of March, 2012.

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They have again 12 properties on the sale list that includes one InterContinental hotel as well. This Cleveland property is not really that expensive in the first place. You should always consider if it makes sense to use points even at a lowered rate.

The Crowne Plaza hotels in Okinawa and Curitiba are good value using points. Brazil especially has become very expensive country in the past few years. Indigo Liverpool at 12.5K and Holiday Inn Express Shanghai Pudong at 7.5K are not that shabby offers either.

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You can access this sale at http://www.priorityclub.com/onedaysale.

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Executive Platinum/Concierge Key members should have been “enjoying” this benefit of a free snack item + one alcoholic beverage since 2009. Flight attendants were previously given instructions to comp these items on their inflight service manual.

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But only now American Airlines has actually published this benefit on their website. Having a beer or red wine helps surviving in AA’s coach before they complete the Main Cabin Extra roll out for roomier economy class product.

Back in January American Airlines announced that they were bringing back free beer and wine for select international routes in Economy.

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UPDATE: Please note that some of these are actually based on STAYS rather than on NIGHTS. I will update this in the next few days to clarify which are based on STAYS and which are based on NIGHTS. There is NO rush to register as this one won’t start before April 1st, 2012. 

IHG’s Priority Club just launched their stay/nights based bonus points promotion for the 2nd quarter of 2012. This offer is valid from April 1st until June 30th, 2012.

Normally Priority Club member is targeted to one of these based on their stay history, but that doesn’t prevent registering to one of the other offers if they decide to do so.

Please note that you can only register for ONE of these, and once you have registered you cannot change it.

Stay 3 get 5000 points Code 1385
Stay 4 get 5000 points Code 1386
Stay 7 get 10000 points Code 1387
Stay 8 get 10000 points Code 1388
Stay 10 get 10000 points Code 1389
Stay 12 get 10000 points Code 1390
Stay 15 get 15000 points Code 1391
Stay 18 get 15000 points Code 1392

Depending how many nights you expect to stay during the second quarter, you should choose 3, 7, or 15 nights version of this promotion.

You can then use the following link for registering:  https://secure.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/pc/1/en/ep

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Not sure why other airlines don’t have this same function on their website? On Emirates.com you can see your tier miles month by month for upcoming travel, and whether you would requalify for your current tier during the rolling tier period.

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You can go back and forth to see how many tier miles you have earned in the past, and will earn in the future. It won’t, however, show how many redeemable miles you will earn from the flights.

This feature is very useful and would be beneficial if other airlines would implement it as well.

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On January 3rd InterContinental Hotels Group’s Priority Club announced that some hotel categories were changing on January 18th resulting 25% going up, 20% going down, and the rest was staying the same.

Priority Club didn’t want to provide a list of hotels changing categories due to “competitive” reasons. Both Marriott and Starwood moved some hotels, but didn’t have a problem providing a list of properties. I manually went through all the InterContinental’s and made a list of the new points requirements compared to old ones.

At the same time Priority Club announced that they would honor the old redemptions levels until March 18th. You can book the hotel using the new points rate and call Priority Club to have them to give you goodwill points for the difference.  These goodwill points will count towards your Priority Club Gold/Status.

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I took advantage this couple of weeks ago when I was staying at a Holiday Inn Suva (Fij). Made the booking using Priority Club points and later called the customer service. Rep posted the 5000 points as a goodwill one.

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UPDATE: If you signed up for the challenge after May 31st and successfully complete it, your Hyatt Gold Passport status will be valid until the end of February 2014.

Hyatt has a nice little program, and I have been a Diamond member since 2004. The program has grown significantly since 2004 mainly by Hyatt acquiring both Amerisuites, which were later converted to Hyatt Places, and Summerfield Suites, that became Hyatt Houses. Both of these acquisitions were a way for Hyatt to enter the limited service market i.e. Hilton’s Hampton Inn.

Sign up for our daily blog updates by email and follow us on TwitterFacebook for not to miss any valuable program information and promotions that Hyatt Gold Passport offers.

How to get matched to Hyatt Diamond status?

Hyatt ended doing direct status matched back in 2010. Since then Hyatt has started to do challenges called Hyatt Diamond Trial. You can probably still get a direct match, but you need to do it through a hotels sales department, and it is probably quite a hassle.

 Do you have any of the following statuses?

– Hilton Gold (you can get one easily using this or this) & Hilton Diamond

– SPG Platinum

– Marriott Gold & Platinum

– Priority Club Platinum

Hyatt may match others as well, but it could be worth printing your stay history that shows significant stay activity.

You will be awarded a Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond Trial, which is in fact a full-fledged Diamond status for 60 days. You will get all the Diamond level benefits during this 60 day period including the four Diamond Suite Awards that are valid up to 7 days each. You can use these to upgrade any paid stay (eligible rate) to a suite at a property that is not on the exclusion list, and has confirmable suite inventory available at the time of request. You need to do the request over the phone as the website is incapable of processing these.

Timing of the Diamond Trial

If you request your Diamond trial now and complete the required number of nights (12), your Hyatt Diamond status will be valid until February 2013. You need to complete the required 25 stays or 50 nights before end of this year to qualify for Diamond status all the way until 2014.

It might be better idea to start the Diamond challenge/trial in the second half of 2012. If nothing has changed, your status should then be valid until February 2014 after doing the required 12 nights in 60 days. Unfortunately I am not aware of the exact cut-off date for this.

Process of requesting the Diamond Challenge/Trial

Do you have a Hyatt Gold Passport account set up? If not it is probably best to set it up online first. Then you need to call (this would be my choice) or send an email request to the service center using the online web form.

You should then receive a following reply within 24 hours:

Thank you for contacting Hyatt Gold Passport Customer Service. I
appreciate the opportunity to assist you.

Regarding your inquiry, currently a Diamond Trial Offer is available.
You will receive trial Diamond membership for 60 days with proof of top
tier status with one of our competitors program.  However, you must
complete 12 nights in 60 days to maintain Diamond tier through February
of 2013.  You will also receive 1000 bonus points on your first six
eligible nights within 60 days, up to a maximum of 6000 bonus points.

Please note this offer can only be made one time and can not be extended
beyond the 60 day period.

Please note the list of competitors that Hyatt Gold Passport will match:

Hilton Gold VIP or Hilton Diamond VIP
Marriott Gold or Marriott Platinum
Starwood Platinum Preferred Guest
Priority Club Platinum

Please email or mail a statement of your account activity with a
competitor to us for processing at:

PO Box 27089
Omaha, NE 68127-0089

To find more details on our exclusive Diamond status please visit us
online at:
http://goldpassport.hyatt.com/gp/benefits/membership_diamond.jsp

I appreciate your support of Hyatt and the Gold Passport program. Please
let me know if I may assist you further.

Sincerely,

XX XX
Hyatt Gold Passport Customer Service

You can mail the requested documents to the above mentioned address or email them to goldpassport@hyatt.com.

They should process the documents within 24 hours and you can then immediately see the updated status by logging in to your Hyatt Gold Passport account.

Note that theoretically this is only once in a lifetime (or program account). You should probably do it if you plan on staying with Hyatt to experience the Hyatt Diamond treatment. As a bonus you will also receive 1000 bonus Gold Passport points for first six of your eligible night during this period.