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Hyatt, Marriott and now also Starwood has realized that giving out a lifetime status after meeting some pretty tough revenue, number of nights, and number of years in the program could be an important part to make members stick with the chain long term.

I have already independently written about Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood requirements. Currently neither InterContinental Hotels Group (Priority Club/Ambassador) nor Hilton offer a lifetime incentive for their members.

My preference in easiness of achieving the top tier lifetime status in these three programs is as following:

1. Starwood Lifetime Platinum

Requires only 500 nights (now all nights count including cash & points/award) + 10 years of Platinum membership

This is in my opinion the easiest. The night requirement is not onerous. The only “real” requirement is the fact that you need to have Platinum status for 10 years. These years do not need to be continuous, but other years do not count for lifetime Platinum.

2. Marriott Lifetime Platinum

Requires 2 million points, 1000 nights & 12 years as a Marriott Rewards member.

The biggest hurdle is the number of night’s requirement, although all the nights count including the ones from credit card + possible meeting ones.

The 2 million point’s requirement might sound high, but in reality it is not considering how many points you will earn from the stays including all the status based bonuses, Megabonus promotions, and points from the credit card spend.

You need to have been at least ones a Platinum member during your membership of the program.

3. Hyatt Lifetime Diamond

This can be the easiest or hardest depending how much you spend. The requirement is one million base points. These are NOT the lifetime points that you can see in your account, but only points that are from eligible revenue before any additional bonuses. It translates to $200K in Hyatt spend that is credited towards Hyatt points. If you have credited some of the stays to airline miles, none of those count for this lifetime status.

The only other requirement is the requirement of having been a Gold Passport member for 10 years. There is no need to ever have a status with Hyatt.

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One of the benefits of being a Royal Ambassador with InterContinental is the complimentary minibar beverages (including the alcohol) on paid stays. The minibar should be refreshed daily.

Most of the InterContinental hotels do adhere to this, and give out complimentary snacks as well, although this is not required by the program. Some properties even extend this benefit to award stays, although again not required.

Then there are some InterContinental hotels like the one here in Kuala Lumpur that specially “prepares” the Royal Ambassador’s minibar prior to arrival.

Can you spot the differences between these two?

Regular Minibar at the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur

intercontinental-kuala-lumpur-minibar

Royal Ambassador Minibar at the InterContinental Kuala Lumpur 

intercontinental-kuala-lumpur-ra-minibar

White and red wine both gone and replaced by two generic water bottles. Also the Ferrero Rocher chocolates gone. Half of the beers and some soft drinks gone. No energy drink and some fruit juices either. They do this minibar clean up quite cleverly. They remove the price list so that a Royal Ambassador guest cannot be sure what should be included.

Last night, I actually asked one of the ladies who were working in the lounge if they do this for all Royal Ambassador. She was borderline embarrassed to say that they do. What really surprised me is the fact that the minibar here never included any hard liquor. Only some red and white wine in small bottles that cannot be that expensive.

InterContinental Bangkok used to clear their minibar from hard liquor, but they had 2 deciliter bottles not the usual tiny minis. They did stop this practice, however. I hope that InterContinental Kuala Lumpur would star adhering to the Royal Ambassador benefits. Maybe this has something to do with converting this hotel from Nikko to InterContinental brand.

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It is always sad when a one of supposedly the best Park Hyatt locations let you down service wise. This is just what happened at the Park Hyatt Shanghai. The hardware is excellent, but the service is very inconsistent and sometime borderline terrible.

park-hyatt-shanghai-view-from-the-lobby-lounge

Yes. I know. This is China and you shouldn’t expect the same level of service as from hotels in other parts of Asia and in Europe. I have heard that line so many times from my friends. Also, the hoteliers always complain how difficult it is for them to employ competent staff. But, I am not buying any of that. You train the staff or hire competent ones, and pay and treat them well enough, so that they stay. Shouldn’t be more complicated than that.

Unfortunately I don’t have the usual number of photos, but I happened to leave my camera to a taxi on my way back to the airport in Shanghai before I had uploaded them.

Location

Depending where you need to be in Shanghai the location may or may not work for you. I know that I probably should use the underground, but the taxis are generally so cheap, unless they try to scam you, that it is really the transportation that I tend to use in Shanghai.

From the airport I took the Maglev train to the station near to the city. Then I took a taxi from there, that turned out to be a scam one, but luckily I knew how much the meter should be from the station to the hotel, and paid based on that, and not what was shown on the meter.

Check in

This is where everything started to ravel. I had an early morning flight in from Apia via Auckland. I had informed the hotel about my early arrival. If it hadn’t suited them, I would have just booked an InterContinental hotel where I have guaranteed 8AM check in as a Royal Ambassador member.

When I arrived the taxi parked on the side of the road. He “missed” the entrance on purpose. Anyway, I wasn’t traveling too heavily so I just walked towards the entrance with my black 22 roller board and computer bag.

I was waving trying to get the bell boys attention so that they could take my bag and escort me to the lobby. It took a while before I was able to get one, and he only took me to the elevator and left my bag there.

So, I was rolling with my bag from the entrance elevators to the front desk. The first question was if I was checking out. Why would I be checking out when I am coming from the elevators that don’t have quest room access with my carry on bags? I promptly replied that I would like to know where the Diamond check in area at this hotel is. Other lady just said that the check in time is at 2PM.

This was absolutely ridiculous and no hotel should operate like this. I had arranged an early check in and they didn’t even bother typing my name to their reservation system to see my reservation. At this point, I politely asked them to get a manager on duty to help me and went to sit down on the chairs by the windows.

The front desk manager was polite and noted that I had come a bit earlier than what was indicated. Yeas, I was. The flight landed early, didn’t have to wait for the Maglev train, and just took a taxi from the station to the hotel. I just told him that if this early check in is a problem I don’t mind just booking another hotel and they can just cancel the reservation I had at the Park Hyatt.

The manager went on his way while I was doing some emails. He came back shortly telling that the room was ready.

Room 8411

This was a very beautiful corner room that almost felt like a junior or studio suite. Per Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond upgrade benefits hotels are not required to upgrade Diamond members beyond best available room.  I believe that this was probably very close to the best, although it was only on the 84th floor. BTW I don’t think that the floor itself makes a huge difference because due to the weather you can hardly see anything besides some smog/cloud on this level. The view could actually be better on much lower floors.

Fitness Center / Pool

park-hyatt-shanghai-pool

Here my service problems continued. Came to the right floor and asked where the fitness center was. The guy directed me to the fitness center, but he should have realized that I need to go and change to the gym attire first as I was carrying shoes and work gear. I just walked back to the “reception” and asked where the lockers are. They were entirely the other way.

park-hyatt-shanghai-fitness-center

The fitness center was nice as one should expect from a Park Hyatt. I was the alone for an hours. That’s good.

On my way to the locker rooms I decided to take a picture of the pool using my cell phone. The same guy came and said that one shouldn’t take photos here. There was nobody in the entire area so there was no excuse for this no photos nonsense.

Breakfast

Breakfast was one of the better ones in the Hyatt chain. I ordered eggs benedict with smoked salmon sauce on the side from the menu. It came almost as I had ordered it.

park-hyatt-shanghai-breakfast-eggs-benedict

The breakfast selection was nice, but the service at times bit too much. I was up  rather early so there was way too many servers compared to guests. I like good service but not when five people are looking at me when I am eating.

Concierge

Again a problem spot. I needed to buy a new SIM card as the previous one that I had for China was purchased in Lhasa, and it would be better to have a “local” one. The concierge couldn’t really understand a word that I was saying. I was able to get a hold off of a western associate that was able to explain my request to the concierge. I then had an employee escorting me to the China Mobile office nearby and get me a local SIM card for data access that I needed. But this whole process was way too complicated.

Diamond Amenity & Welcome Letter

Not sure what is the standard Diamond amenity at this Park Hyatt. All that I got was five pearls. No welcome letter.

Early Arrival Continental Breakfast

As the hotel had noted my early arrival, I had nice selection of pastries and orange juice waiting for me when I finally got to my room. This was very nice touch.

After Stay Satisfaction Survey

You do get these quite often after staying at international properties. I gave them less than stellar score due to the numerous problems I had. I also noted the problems in the written in sections of the survey.

I was really surprised that the following day I received an email from the property. No. It actually came from the survey company and the reply to-address had been changed to some executive assistant at the property. The content of the email was partly mail merged from the comments that I had left.

If they had had look at the record of my stay, they would have quickly noticed the problems that I had and what I had reported. I find this kind of “automatic” responses very amateurish for supposedly one of the flagship Hyatt property.

Conclusion

It is a very nice property hardware wise, but you need to lower your service expectations to the same or lower level than your average domestic US Hyatt.

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Hyatt decided to finally update the locations where Diamond Suite Awards are not valid. It had already been known for months that the exclusion list they had up on the website was no longer valid. There might be still properties that officially participate, but where you cannot find a single date for confirmable upgrades.

The following properties supposedly don’t have any standard suites where you could use Diamond Suite upgrades:

Hyatt Regency Kyoto

hyatt-regency-kyoto

Not sure what is so special about this Regency Suite that would make it non-standard for Diamond Suite upgrades?

Hyatt Regency Paris-Madeleine

hyatt-regency-madeleine-suites

This 60 square meter Regency Suite sounds a lot like a really regular suite to me, but apparently it is not.

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort 

park-hyatt-beaver-creek

Again, this location seems to have quite a few different suite types available. Why this fireside one wouldn’t qualify as a standard one?

Park Hyatt Maldives

I really believe this one as I have been there. They don’t have suites. They have Over Water Villas, Pool Villas, or Regular Villas.

Park Hyatt Sydney

park-hyatt-sydney

Not sure what is going here. The lowest suite is actually smaller than their Opera or City Deluxe, but it is still not considered a “standard” suite.

Hyatt Santa Barbara 

Fair they don’t have suites. I have stayed there few times and it is a nice hotel.

Key West Resort and Spa 

This is a small property that doesn’t have suites. I have stayed there once.

Hyatt Regency Wichita 

 hyatt-wichita

This property has suites, but apparently not many. Wondering what is so special about this Bluestem suite that it couldn’t be categorized as a standard suite for suite redemption purposes?

Hyatt Regency Tulsa

Apparently no suites here.

Conclusion

Apparently four of the nine non-participating properties don’t have suites. The other six that supposedly don’t have any standard suites, do have suites that one could think by reading the suite description to be a standard ones

Hyatt must have had hard time getting some of the better properties to sign up for this suite upgrade thing. They either don’t compensate properties or compensate very little for usage of these suite awards.

Apparently the Park Hyatt Chicago is not available using these Diamond Suite Awards per several Hyatt Private Line agents, although Hyatt has not added that property to the list (yet).

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Isn’t it quite remarkable that a Holiday Inn is the best hotel in the capital? This was the case with Suva that is the capital of Fiji. I had zero expectation as one should always have when booking a Holiday Inn. Some of them are nice but lots of them are not so nice, to put it very kindly. This one in Suva? It was actually one of the nicer ones to my surprise.

There is another hotel, Novotel Suva Lami Bay, that you may also consider when exploring Suva. It is ten to fifteen minute drive from the center of Suva and they provide a shuttle several times a day. I think that overall Holiday Inn was better.

Location

The hotel is located in the center of Suva. It is very close to all government buildings and nightlife. The location really couldn’t be better as everything is within a walking distance.

Check In

I should always remember that when you are in somewhere in Pacific everything that just happens slower. There was one person checking in before me, but the process was taking forever. I asked the agent if he could page someone to come help him with check ins/outs. He then paged a lady to help him.

I had made an award reservation, because the paid rates that are bookable on their website were on the high side. This property was shown as 20K Priority Club points per night, but it is still bookable until 15th of March using the previous points requirement per night that was 15K/night. For some reason the lady was asking me a printed copy of the award reservation. According to her, they had had some problems with Priority Club reservation made using points and they request the guest to provide a copy of the award reservation. This was solved by forwarding a copy of the email to the hotel from my phone.

After these email confirmation issues were solved, I was checked in to a nice second floor room facing the ocean. This property had an additional Platinum amenity. You could choose one snack item or get a free drink coupon to the bar. I chose the latter.

Room 276

The room was nice for a Holiday Inn. It wasn’t the most modern but quite well kept up. I would imagine this to be the only Holiday Inn in the entire world where the free water for brushing teeth is Fiji.  There was a nice view from the balcony to the pool area and to the sea.

holiday-inn-suva-fiji-room-276-general-view

Pool

The pool itself wasn’t huge, but there were people enjoying it. I would come to Fiji and stay in this business hotel for vacationing purposes. There are other hotels in Fiji that are targeted to more leisure crowds.

holiday-inn-suva-fiji-pool-sunny

Food & Beverage Outlets

I only had few drinks in the evening and some iced teas in the following afternoon in the hotel, and thus cannot comment about the quality, service, and the price of food & beverage. There are plenty of places to eat and drink within a walking distance from the hotel.

holiday-inn-suva-fiji-pool-bar

Conclusion

This was a perfect hotel to explore the city of Suva. There is a large park next to the hotel that houses the history museum of Fiji that is definitely worth visiting. All the government buildings are next door to this hotel.

You have to accept that the service here is not really up to the standards that you might have come to expect even from a Holiday Inn. The stay overall, however, was good.

If you have Priority Club points, this is a very good place to burn some of them. The paid rates are high compared to number of points required.

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Emirates has grown very fast in the past few years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They have very competitive fares for economy, business, and first class travel, and almost impossible to avoid if one is traveling in and around in the Europe and Middle East.

Earlier in the week, I had a long transit in Dubai and used the Emirates complimentary limo service to/from Abu Dhabi. I will write later about the limo process and the service on the flights. This will not going to be a lounge review, but rather a review of the breakfast service in the lounge.

emirates-first-class-lounge-dubai-breakfast-restaurant

The lounge was very quiet when I was there on a recent Wednesday morning from 8AM to 9:30AM. When you enter the “restaurant” area there are typically a waiter seating you and handing you their breakfast ala carte menu. Normally they take your drink order at this time. You can also request them to bring you a morning cocktail like Mimosa or Bloody Mary. I just tend to drink plain Veuve Clicquot and some tea with the lounge breakfast.

emirates-first-class-lounge-dubai-breakfast-plate

There is rather extensive selection of buffet items available as well. My favorite is the sushi section and proper salmon.

emirates-first-class-lounge-dubai-breakfast-sushi

This morning I placed an order for eggs benedict with smoked salmon instead of bacon and the sauce to be on the side. They actually don’t have this item on the menu, but I am most likely not the only one that had requested it as it came just fine.

emirates-first-class-lounge-dubai-breakfast-eggs-benedict

I really like the proper bread basket that they have in this lounge. Almost identical to that on the flights as well.

The service in the restaurant area is very attentive. I had my first flute of Veuve and before I had had a chance request more the waiter was already coming with a bottle to refresh it.

This is probably the best breakfast experience I have had in any of the airline lounges.

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The main selling point of this hotel is the close proximity to the capital of Fiji, but yet far enough away from the city to feel like a resort. I was on my way from Nadi to Suva and spent a night at the InterContinental Fiji resort, that was stunning, before continuing my way to Suva. As it was starting to be late I decided to spend a night here before continuing to the city, and to the Holiday Inn in the morning.

The drive from Natadola Bay and Nadi is long. This will take about three hours if you drive fast. I would not suggest driving during the night-time as there are rather large potholes at times. It is impossible to see them in the dark.

novotel-suva-lami-bay-sign-on-the-highway

There are numerous villages on the way and you need to slow down considerably when you are driving through them. They have at least two speed bumps in every village. Just before you enter one and when you leave.

Check in

novotel-suva-lami-bay-lobby-sitting-area

The check in was fast. I had made my reservation earlier in the day while logged in to my Accor A Club Platinum account. Not sure about this A Club because apparently there are no benefits for staying at Novotel hotels besides getting some extra points. Anyway, I was allocated a room facing the bay and on a wing that appeared to been renovated fairly recently.

Room

The room itself was nice but rather small. All was very functional, however. There was a lovely view of the bay from the balcony.

novotel-suva-lami-bay-room-228-bed

Bathroom, again, was quite small but functional.

novotel-suva-lami-bay-room-228-bathroom-sink

Restaurant / Bar

Didn’t have a breakfast at this property so cannot comment about it. I did, however, have a soup, dessert, and couple of beers in the evening when I arrived. There was couple of musicians playing some Polynesian themed songs and the atmosphere was quite nice.

novotel-suva-lami-bay-dinner

What I didn’t like was the number of insects flying around in the bar due to the lights. This entire area is open and probably because it is so close to the water it is impossible to control these. It didn’t seem to bother anybody else than me so I am most likely just not used to it.

Pool / Fitness Center

novotel-suva-lami-bay-view-of-the-hotel-and-swimming-pool

They had a small pool on the property and few chairs around it. There were more chairs on the deck very close to the water. As I was leaving early in the morning, I didn’t have time to check out the fitness center at this property.

Transportation

The hotel was offering a shuttle (not sure if it was free) to the city center of Suva and back three to four times a day. So it is possible to explore the city and still day at this hotel. I didn’t use the shuttle because I had a rental car and staying at this hotel only for a night.

Conclusion

novotel-suva-lami-bay-outside-terrace

Nice and relaxing hotel that is located very close to the Suva city. I probably wouldn’t spend here longer than couple of days, if you are just planning to explore the city. I also stayed at the Holiday Inn hotel in Suva that is right in the city center. I will write about it tomorrow.

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This Priority Club One Say Sale is apparently their new weekly feature. I don’t mind as it is always great to save when you are redeeming points.

priority-club-one-say-sale

These discounted rewards are only available until midnight Thursday EST.

This time they have 12 properties from 50% to 67% discount off their regular redemption rates. I don’t understand why they have the InterContinental Residence Suites Dubai Financial Center on this list as this property NEVER has any paid or redemption availability. I again checked ten different dates during this redemption sale period and none was available.

priority-club-one-say-sale-march-8

priority-club-one-say-sale-march-8-2

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

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Accor is having a sale for stays between March 9 and April 15, 2012. You can get 3 nights for the price of 2. There are quite a few hotels participating to this promotion, but obviously not all. They just sent an email notification for their A Club members before making the offer more widely available.

accor-sale-email-march-2012

I was just looking for options in Kuala Lumpur, where I will be this weekend, and Novotel had quite decent rates. If you are looking for some stays that are 3 days or longer, it might make some sense to check out the Accor’s prices.

accor-sale-march-2012

accor-sale-march-2012-novotel-kuala-lumpur

There is still the promotion going to get instant Platinum status as well with the Accor’s A Club. You can access this sale using the link here.

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It was a very nice move from Fairmont to extend the validity of February 29, 2012 expiring certificates by a month until the end of March. I had few certificates going to expire, but now have another four weeks to use them. I was just surprised to find this out when I checked the new certs that were issued for the 2012 Platinum year. No communication from Fairmont though.

fairmont-presidents-club-certificate-extension

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Hilton launched their Premium Room and Points And Money rewards last year. The other week, I wrote about my Points And Money reward at Hilton Fiji. I have also written about the Premium Room Rewards at Hilton Abu Dhabi where I was thinking of staying at late last year.

When I have looked at these Premium Room Rewards, the Hilton has always valued the Hilton HHonors point from anywhere between $0.003 and $0.007. The price using points is directly linked to the price of the room/suite. It sometimes creates a situation where this Premium Room Reward actually costs less than the basic level room reward for the hotel in question. Also, there is/was a Get Points Back Promotion where Hilton would credit back 30% of the points used back for Points And Money & Premium Room Rewards.

After having had a great stay at the Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria in Shanghai, I wanted to stay at the Hilton Shanghai as well. The rates there were rather high and couldn’t get the price to come down using any of the discount codes that I am eligible for.

hilton-shanghai-basic-room

The regular redemption rates at this hotel are 35000 Hilton HHonors points per night, but there was also Premium Room Rewards available starting at less than 31000 points per night. I decided to book the Premium Room Reward because I had a hunch that I might get the 30% of the used points back, although the reservation was done after the official cut off time.

hilton-shanghai-premium-room-reward

Lo and behold. The stay posted to my account and there was again the line for Get Points Back Promo essentially making this award cost 21647 Hilton HHonors points. The “value” of a Hilton HHonors point, considering the paid rates and after getting 30% of the points back, was around $0.01/Hilton HHonors point.

hilton-shanghai

This Get Points Back-promotion proves why it always makes sense to sign up for the promotions even if you are not initially planning to use them. I had absolutely no plans to use these new awards, but I have already done it twice and saved nice number of Hilton HHonors points in the process.

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Sri Lanka started to require an Electronic Travel Authorization for quite a few countries that previously were exempt of visa to enter Sri Lanka. I belong to this group. Personally, I don’t think that this “Electronic Travel Authorization” is nothing else than a sort of tourism tax that the government now wants to collect.

sri-lankan-website

Yesterday, I arrived for the very first time since this new system took place. I was flying in on Thai Airway and was going to fly out on Emirates about 36 hours later on a separate ticket. I just proceeded to the regular immigration counter that first tried to suggest that I would need a visa and would have to pay for that. After I explained that I was flying out the following day on Emirates and showed my itinerary from my cell phone, she just stamped the passport with a two day transit visa.

sri-lankan-transfer-stamp

On my previous transit the transit visa was for three days when my transfer was only 12 hours.

timatic-sri-lanka

I normally rely on Timatic for all kind of visa and transit issues. This time, however, the information on Timatic is somewhat vague. The information on the Sri Lankan Electronic Travel Authorization website is correct.

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As Accor has been running quite a few promotions lately to get folks to sign up for their frequent stay program and give them the Platinum status right away, I finally decided to check out couple of their properties when I was in Fiji.

I have already written about my disastrous stay at the Mercure hotel in Nadi and will do the write up about my Novotel experience tomorrow that was acceptable. The stay at the Novotel posted without problems to my A Club account, but the stay at the Mercure is apparently MIA.

Both of these reservations was done one Accor’s website while logged in to the A Club account. I can also see post of the stays on my reservation history. So, these are both linked to my account and my account number MUST have been on file.

accor-aclub-mercure

Decided to check out how the system of requesting a stay credit for a past stay that hasn’t posted to your account is working. Apparently they want you to scan a copy of your folio and attach it to the request. I didn’t have it on hand so attached a picture of the cockroach that I had in my room there.

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a-club-missing-stay-continue

Just got the following reply back that this is a no go.

a-club-missing-stay-email

Is this scanning of receipts and sending them to A Club worth of my or anybody’s time? Of course it is not and they very well know that. Hotels are paying for the A Club points awarded for A Club members, and they can simply remove your account number from the reservation so that they don’t have this extra expense. It would be the right thing to A Club to contact the properties and request copies of the past stays that have been reported through their website, and then post the missing points.

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Not sure what is going on with the Emirates at the moment. I have two tickets bought from them during the January fare sale for first class travel in the next 30 days. The last time I checked the reservations, about two weeks ago, everything seemed normal. Yesterday I decided to check the flights using Expertflyer and was rather surprised to see that the flight I am taking tomorrow didn’t have first class at all.

emirates-cmb-dxb

emirates-canceled

Apparently Emirates has been doing quite a bit of plane juggling lately. When I then checked the second ticket, two of my four segments have also been downgraded from first to business.

Emirates has also changed the eticket receipts to reflect the downgrade for business class. Luckily I have the original eticket receipt saved as well as the mileage accelerators offered for these flights.

Not sure why Emirates doesn’t have better procedures in place for aircraft swaps. I don’t think that it would be too much asked for them to contact the passengers that they are being downgraded, and at the same time offer alternate solutions i.e. rerouting on other carriers (EY/QR/SQ) and/or compensation.