Monday, December 29, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Lounge Report - Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt

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Many airlines have dedicated First Class-only lounges separate from their Business Class analogs. But for Lufthansa's First Class passengers traveling from Frankfurt, Lufthansa offers a separate first class terminal.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Review - Hyatt Regency Mainz

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Room:  Club View King
Price:  6,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points + 55.00 €
Category:  3

The only Hyatt in the Frankfurt area is in Mainz, a suburb city in its own right about 15 miles west of the airport. The hotel's website tells me that a cab is about 60 Euro, but that I could take the S-Bahn suburban rail line from the airport for about 7 Euro. So I decided to try the adventurous route.

There are plenty of signs in the airport terminal that direct you to the airport S-Bahn station, which is just underneath the terminal. But once you're there, you're sort of on your own.

The Iggy Itinerary: Lufthansa First Class - Seoul-Incheon > Frankfurt (747-8i)

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The Boeing 747, which began commercial travel in 1970, is my favorite airplane aesthetically. The latest model in Boeing's series is the 747-8 Intercontinental (747-8i), which is slightly larger than the iconic 747-400. Lufthansa and Air China are the only commercial airlines to operate the plane.

And what a beauty it is.

Lufthansa Boeing 747-8i

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Lounge Report - Asiana First Class Lounge, Seoul-Incheon

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The transit security process at Incheon Airport is very quick - I went from gate to terminal in under 10 minutes.

The Star Alliance carriers operate out of two terminals at Incheon. Asiana's flights depart from the Main Terminal, while the other Star Alliance carriers (including my Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt) leave from the Concourse Terminal (also called Terminal A). Asiana operates a First Class Lounge in both terminals.

Source: Star Alliance

I went to the Main Terminal lounge first. (My Lufthansa First Class ticket got me access to any Star Alliance carrier's First Class Lounge).

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Asiana Business Class - Shanghai-Pudong > Seoul-Incheon (767-300)

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This was my very first flight on Asiana, and I was pretty excited. I knew the plane wouldn't have the fancy intercontinental business class configuration with lie-flat seats, but it's still considerably better than domestic first class.

Our plane (Boeing 767-300)

The Iggy Itinerary: Lounge Report - Air China Business Class Lounge, Shanghai-Pudong

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Despite being the transport hub for one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, Shanghai's Pudong International Airport's lounges are terrible.

Or so I thought.

For years, Star Alliance carriers used a contract lounge (i.e. not owned by an airline) - a dark space with some leather chairs and dim sum that looked weeks old. Certainly no reason to arrive early at the airport.

But earlier this year, Air China (Star Alliance's PRC-based carrier) opened new lounges in Beijing and Shanghai. The lounge in Shanghai is a huge improvement!



Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Singapore Airlines Suites Class - Singapore to Shanghai-Pudong (A380-800)

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The passengers seemed a bit grumpy as they boarded the A380 superjumbo headed toward Shanghai. The flight had been delayed an hour because of a last-minute aircraft switch (something about plumbing issues). They boarded Suites Class, Business Class, and Star Alliance Gold elite members at the same time - that's way too many people for one boarding group.

The A380 from Singapore to Shanghai

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Audit your Hyatt account

Two weeks ago, I received an email from Hyatt thanking me for completing the (now defunct) Hyatt Diamond Challenge.


Loyal blog readers may remember that I finished my challenge on November 11 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort. So why did Hyatt's thank-you email come sixteen days later?

The Iggy Itinerary: Lounge Report - The Private Room, Singapore

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The world of travel bloggers has canonized several lounges into the stuff of legends, particularly Thai, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates's first-class lounges in their home airports. Singapore Airlines's flagship lounge is also supposed to be within that elite group.

It's called The Private Room, and it's a lounge within a lounge within a lounge.

The first level is the SilverKris lounge - accessible to any Star Alliance Gold-elite members or passengers traveling in business class.



Chase Freedom: 5% Back Categories for 2015

The Chase Freedom is one of my favorite credit cards and is an integral part of my points-earning strategy.

The card has no annual fee (which is amazing!) and currently has a sign-up offer of 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (after spending $500 in your first three months). And the card earns up to 5 points per dollar spent in select categories (capped at $1,500 per quarter).

Chase Freedom just announced its categories for 2015:

Source:  Chase

Hyatt's "My Elite Rate" discontinuing

Hyatt's loyalty program, Hyatt Gold Passport, has traditionally offered generous benefits to its members. One of the best features in 2014, available for Platinum and Diamond members, was the "My Elite Rate" program.

Suite at the Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile, which I booked with My Elite Rate

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Singapore Airlines Suites Class, Tokyo-Narita > Singapore (A380-800)

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Singapore Airlines Flight 11 departs Tokyo-Narita at 8:50pm and lands at Singapore-Changi at the ungodly hour of 2:56am. I don't think this is convenient for anyone, regardless of whether you're staying in Singapore or connecting to a morning flight.

Knowing that I had a long connection in Singapore (and that the lounge there wouldn't have sleeping rooms), I decided to sleep as much as I could after the meal service.


Boarding (onto the same plane as the Los Angeles > Tokyo leg) began a bit late with Suites passengers first.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Lounge Report - ANA Suite Lounge, Tokyo-Narita

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Changing planes at Tokyo-Narita is a true pleasure. Transit security (despite not having priority lanes for business / first class) is quick and efficient, and the airport signage is clear. It took me about 7 minutes to get from the plane to the lounge.

The stopover in Tokyo on Singapore 11 is relatively short. The flight is scheduled to land at Narita at 6:15pm and depart for Singapore at 8:50pm. During that time, Suites passengers are invited to use the ANA Suite Lounge.

There was a "Singapore Girl" cardboard cutout in front of the ANA Suite Lounge (probably only there for our flight and Singapore Airlines 12, which goes from Singapore to LAX through Tokyo).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Singapore Airlines Suites Class, Los Angeles > Tokyo-Narita (A380-800)

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The A380-800
In 2007, Singapore Airlines became the first airline to operate Airbus's superjumbo A380-800, a leviathan capable of flying up to 853 passengers. The airline decided to do away with its traditional first-class product and offer something called Suites Class, which it advertised as a "class beyond first."

Suites Class

 My home for almost 19 hours

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Lounge Report - Star Alliance First Class / Business Class Lounge, LAX

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The big morning After eating breakfast at The Concourse Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport, I got onto the hotel's complimentary shuttle to the terminal.

"What airline?" asked the driver.
"Singapore," I replied.
"You're going far! At least the airline will probably feed you," said Dave, a good-natured bro headed to upstate New York.
"You have no idea, Dave," I thought.

After a five-minute ride, the shuttle pulled in front of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, the departure point for almost all international flights out of LAX.




Sunday, November 23, 2014

King v. Burwell: The latest Obamacare battle in the Supreme Court

Imagine filing a lawsuit so that the IRS will be forced to deny you a tax credit that they wanted to give you. A group of Virginia residents did just that. King v. Burwell is the case, and it’s one of the most significant cases for the Supreme Court this term.

Introduction 
The Supreme Court is no stranger to litigation related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly called the ACA or Obamacare).

NFIB v. Sebelius was a landmark 2012 decision in which Chief Justice Roberts shocked many Court-watchers by voting to uphold the constitutionality of the ACA’s individual mandate. In 2014, the Court issued Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, declaring that the ACA’s contraceptive mandate violated for-profit corporations’ free-exercise rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Both NFIB and Hobby Lobby were decided 5-4. Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito voted to strike aspects of the ACA in both cases; Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan voted to preserve those aspects.

The Supreme Court recently decided to step back into the ACA arena when it granted review in King v. Burwell. What’s at stake, and can the beleaguered ACA survive another challenge?

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Booking

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I first learned about the “miles game” from absorbing information on the FlyerTalk forums, then later from reading travel blogs such as One Mile At a Time and View from the Wing. These resources were invaluable to me, and I hope this post can help some others figure out how to book award tickets successfully.

Bloggers love extolling the virtues of using credit card sign-up offers to earn points. Of course, they have a financial incentive in the form of referral revenue. But they’re also correct.

It takes an awful lot of flying to amass the 100,000+ miles needed for a one-way award in first class. Earning a couple of 50,000 mile sign-up bonuses for opening a credit card and putting big-ticket items on the cards is the easiest way to plump up your points balance for “aspirational” award travel on the “good” airlines’ first class (Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines are among the favorites; Swiss, Thai, ANA, Korean Air, Asiana, and Air France also receive strong reviews.

Lufthansa's 747-400 First Class

The Hyatt Diamond Challenge: Retrospective

My Hyatt Diamond Challenge

I recently completed Hyatt's recently deceased Hyatt Diamond Challenge, a generous program allowing individuals to attain top-level Diamond status in Hyatt's loyalty program. The Diamond Challenge gave individuals Diamond status up front during the 60-day challenge period. To retain Diamond status for the year, one would have to stay 12 nights in Hyatt properties during the challenge period.

Hyatt discontinued the program at the end of October 2014. The program was far more generous than the comparable programs offered by Hyatt's competitor hotel chains. It's unclear whether Hyatt will offer the program in a different form in the future, but for now, it's muerto.

Meadowlark Suite at the Hyatt Regency Wichita

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: The Concourse Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport

Hotel:  The Concourse Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport
Room:  Standard King (I think?)
Price:  $111.20 (+ $17.31 taxes)
Category:  3

It's cheesy, but I can't land at LAX without thinking of Miley's pre-Wrecking Ball anthem to patriotism and YOLO / getting turnt before those were a thing:

"I hopped off a plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan,
Welcome to the land of fame, excess, woah, am I gonna fit in?"
   Miley Cyrus, "Party in the USA"




Unsurprisingly, there are lots of hotels near LAX. The Concourse probably wouldn't ordinarily be my first choice, but it's convenient and seemed like a good way to complete the Hyatt Diamond Challenge.




Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Iggy Itinerary: Introduction

Introduction  |  Next >

"I'm so fancy, you already know
I'm in the fast lane from LA to Tokyo"
   - Charli XCX, from "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea


Singapore Airlines currently operates its beautiful A380 super-jumbo on two US routes: JFK to Frankfurt and LAX to Tokyo-Narita. On those routes, the airline replaced its traditional First Class with an ultra-fancy version called Suites Class, which Singapore advertised as "a class beyond First."


And for a little over 24 hours, I'll get to experience the magic that is Suites Class like this rich old dude watching golf.


Review: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino

Hotel:  Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino
Room:  One Bedroom Suite
Price:  $95.20 (+ Diamond Suite Upgrade; $20.00 resort fee; $15.63 taxes)
Category:  5

Regardless of the time of year, the Lake Tahoe area is an idyllic wonderland. It's the closest ski destination to Northern California, and I have fond memories of annual dorm ski trips to Tahoe with hundreds of us packed into cabins designed for twenty people.

The only Hyatt property in the Tahoe area is in Incline Village on the north shore of the lake. It's a sleepy town on the Nevada side of the border with California that seems totally reliant on tourist traffic (like much of the area). It's a sprawling property decorated in a ski-lodge style.




Sunday, November 9, 2014

Review: Hyatt Escala Lodge Park City

Hotel:  Hyatt Escala Lodge Park City
Room:  Premium One Bedroom King Suite
Price:  $127.20 (+ Diamond Suite Upgrade; $15.00 resort fee; $16.85 taxes)
Category:  4

The last time I was in Park City was over New Year's Eve almost six years ago. It was like a fantasyland - the people are rich and beautiful; the food is delicious; and the town looked like a beautiful Swiss alpine village.

Park City in the off-season is weird, though - the ski slopes, usually beautiful and white, are ugly and bare like a hairless cat. But the off-season also means hotel rates are much more reasonable. And the hotel is picturesque even without the snow.




Saturday, November 8, 2014

Review: Grand Hyatt Denver

Hotel:  Grand Hyatt Denver
Room:  Executive Suite
Price:  $127.20 (+ Diamond Suite Upgrade and $18.76 taxes)
Category:  3

The Grand Hyatt Denver and Hyatt Regency Denver Convention Center are just three blocks away from each other, and there is a healthy debate about which property is better. To break up the chain of Hyatt Regencies that I had stayed at the past few days, I decided to book the Grand Hyatt. It's a beautiful hotel.



Review: Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center

Hotel:  Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center
Room:  Premier King (switched into Standard Double upon request)
Price:  4,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points + $55.00 (+ $8.12 taxes and $10.00 parking)
Category:  2

The Denver Tech Center is about 13 miles south-southeast of downtown Denver, and is home to a bunch of telcos and other assorted tech firms. The Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center, while very convenient for those companies, is not a good choice if you're hoping to go downtown. But the hotel is inviting and spacious.




Thursday, November 6, 2014

Sixth Circuit creates same-sex marriage split

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (which covers Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee) issued an opinion today reversing federal district courts in all four states that had declared unconstitutional their respective states' bans on same-sex marriage.

Last month, the Supreme Court declined to review the decisions of the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits that had declared bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Justice Ginsburg's remarks suggest that the Supreme Court declined review because there had been no split of authority among the federal appellate courts.

Shortly afterward, the Ninth Circuit joined the other three circuits in declaring the bans unconstitutional. But the Sixth Circuit's decision now creates a split that could force the Supreme Court to wade into the issue.

The case, called DeBoer v. Snyder, was decided 2-1 with Judge Jeffrey Sutton of Ohio writing for the majority.

Review: Hyatt Regency Wichita

Hotel:  Hyatt Regency Wichita
Room:  Vice Presidential Suite
Price:  2,500 Hyatt Gold Passport points + $50.00
Category:  1

Almost every Category 1 Hyatt property is a Hyatt Place or Hyatt House. Although these are generally new and clean properties, they're not usually anything to get excited about.

In the United States, there are 8 full-service Hyatt properties that fall in that Category 1 sweet-spot (free night for 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points or 2,500 points and $50):
  • Hyatt Regency Suites Atlanta Northwest (GA)
  • Hyatt Lisle near Naperville (IL)
  • Hyatt Regency Schaumburg (IL)
  • Hyatt Regency Wichita (KS)
  • Hyatt Regency Albuquerque (NM)
  • Hyatt Regency Tulsa (OK)
  • Hyatt Regency Greenville (SC)
  • Hyatt Regency North Dallas (TX)
Of those 8, I stayed at 3 on my Hyatt Diamond Challenge (all with Points + Cash redemptions). The Hyatt Regency Wichita is, by far, the best of the 3.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Review: Hyatt Regency Tulsa

Hotel:  Hyatt Regency Tulsa
Room:  Standard Double
Price:  2,500 Hyatt Gold Passport points + $50.00
Category:  1

Tulsa, just a short hop from Oklahoma City on Interstate 44, is arguably the more cosmopolitan of the two major Oklahoma cities (locals speak of Tulsa admiringly as the "Austin of Oklahoma").

The Hyatt Regency Tulsa is one of Hyatt's few Category 1 full-service (i.e. non-Hyatt Place, non-Hyatt House) properties. The hotel is in the heart of downtown Tulsa and within walking distance of most of the stuff you would want to see here.





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review: Hyatt Place Oklahoma City Airport

Hotel:  Hyatt Place Oklahoma City Airport
Room:  Standard King
Price:   2,500 Hyatt Gold Passport points + $50.00 (+ $6.94 taxes)
Category:  1

Oklahoma City has two Hyatt properties - the Hyatt Place Oklahoma City-Northwest, where I stayed earlier on this trip, and the Hyatt Place Oklahoma City Airport.

The latter is a bit of a misnomer; it's about 3.5 miles from the airport. The airport itself has one hotel (the Four Points Oklahoma City, a Starwood property). This Hyatt Place, like most of OKC's nominal airport hotels, is on a wide street that has every chain hotel, fast food, and casual dining establishment you've ever heard of (and some off-brand ones).

The hotel is set off from the main street and gets no street traffic noise.



Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Hyatt Place Oklahoma City-Northwest

Hotel:  Hyatt Place Oklahoma City-Northwest
Room:  Standard King
Price:  $95.20 (+ $13.21 taxes)
Category:  1

I first passed through Oklahoma City while driving to law school. At the time, I thought I'd never return. But after law school, I accepted a judicial clerkship in the pride of the Sooner State. While I was working here, I drove a guest speaker from the airport to this Hyatt Place; that's how I knew how to find it (it's hidden off the street despite being right off an interstate exit).




The end of the Hyatt Diamond Challenge?

The world of points is buzzing with the revelation that Hyatt is ending its Hyatt Diamond Challenge.

The upgrd.com blog reports:
I have been able to confirm with Hyatt that as of 10/31/14 they no longer offer Diamond Status challenges or status matches. That's not to say that they absolutely won't match again in the future or re-introduce a challenge, but in it's current format, the Diamond Challenge is no more.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Review: Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch

Hotel:  Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch
Room:  Regency Club King, Arch View
Price:  $109 (+ $16.46 taxes)
Category:  2

When driving into St. Louis from the north on Interstate 55, the top of the Gateway Arch emerges from the horizon about six miles from the Illinois-Missouri border. It's a 630-foot monument to the Manifest Destiny - ostentations, sturdy, and quintessentially American.  And the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch offers unparalleled views of the Arch.

Arch
View from Regency Club

Hyatt exterior
Front Entrance

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Review: Hyatt Regency Schaumburg

Hotel:  Hyatt Regency, Schaumburg, IL
Room:  Regency Club King (corner)
Price:  $71.20 (+ $9.97 taxes)
Category:  1

Schaumburg, a suburb about 30 miles northwest of the Chicago loop, is known primarily for having one of Illinois's two IKEAs and a large mall called the Woodfield Shopping Center.  It's also home of the least expensive Hyatt property in the Chicagoland area.

Hyatt Regency Schaumburg
Hyatt Regency Schaumburg

What can you do with Hyatt points?

As a non-status'd member of the Hyatt loyalty program, you earn 5 points per dollar spent; as a Diamond member, that rate jumps to 6.5 points per dollar. On a $150 stay at a Hyatt as a Diamond member, you could earn (6.5 * $150) = 975 points, plus another 1,000 points as a check-in amenity. So what does one do with all these Hyatt points?

Free nights
Redeeming points for free nights at Hyatt properties is one of the best money-value uses for the points. The number of points required for a redemption varies based on how Hyatt categorizes the property.

Hyatt classifies its properties into Categories 1 through 7. Category 7 is the top tier - almost all of these are luxurious Park Hyatts in first-tier cities such as New York, Paris, and Tokyo. Category 1 includes many properties in not-exactly-glamorous cities such as Pensacola and Corpus Christi, but also includes non-luxury properties in major cities such as Dallas and Atlanta.

The redemption rates for standard rooms by category, according to Hyatt.com:

Source:  Hyatt.com

Friday, October 31, 2014

Review: Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile

Hotel:  Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile
Room:  Executive Suite
Price:  $119.20 (+ $18.54 taxes)
Category:  5

Hyatt's headquarters is in the Chicago Loop. Their flagship Hyatt property in Chicago is the beautiful Park Hyatt Chicago, located in the northern part of the Magnificent Mile shopping area. The Park Hyatt is very expensive.

4.5 blocks away from the Park Hyatt is the Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile.

Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile
Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile

Hyatt Diamond Challenge

Hyatt Gold Passport
Hyatt's loyalty program, Hyatt Gold Passport, has three published tiers: base-level Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. (They also have an invitation-only level called Hyatt Courtesy Card).

Platinum status (5 stays or 15 nights annually) gets you free wi-fi, a slightly higher point-accumulation rate, and the ability to book space-available rooms at a 20% discount on Hyatt.com. Decent benefits, but nothing earth-shattering.

Diamond status (25 stays or 50 nights annually) is where the real fun is. The most significant benefits are:
  • Free wi-fi
  • Free breakfast
  • 30% point-accumulation bonus
  • Food & beverage amenity (or 1,000 points at full-service Hyatts and 500 points at Hyatt Place properties)
  • Upgrade to best available non-suite room at check-in
  • 4 annual suite upgrades (good for a stay of up to seven nights each)

The suite upgrades and free breakfast are nice, but the points accumulation may be my favorite benefit. Hyatt points are pretty valuable (bloggers who know more than I do value them between 1.5 cents and 1.8 cents each).

Each stay earns you 5 points per dollar spent, plus a 30% bonus as a diamond member.  On a one-night $120 stay, you'd earn 780 points, plus 1,000 points if you choose the points amenity. That's worth between $26.70 and $32.04 under the 1.5¢ and 1.8¢ valuations, respectively. With a $10 valuation for breakfast per person and $5 valuation for wi-fi, you're at about $55 in freebies for a two-person stay as a diamond. That's pretty awesome.


The Hyatt Diamond Challenge
Hyatt has a very generous status-match program called the Hyatt Diamond Challenge. When you sign up, you get Diamond status comped for 60 days and the 4 annual suite upgrades. To complete the challenge and retain Diamond status for the year, you have to stay 12 nights at Hyatt properties. You also get a 1,000 point bonus for the first six stays during the challenge.

Qualifying for the challenge requires status in another hotel chain's loyalty program (Hilton Gold or better; Marriott Gold or better; Starwood Platinum; or Intercontinental Platinum) plus evidence of a previous stay.  This isn't as hard as it sounds. You can status match to Marriott Gold as a United Gold member or higher; there are credit cards that can get you Hilton Gold and Intercontinental Platinum.

To enroll, email goldpassport@hyatt.com with a screenshot of your other-hotel elite status with evidence of a previous stay and your Hyatt number.

I'm United Gold, which got me a status match to Marriott Gold. I used Marriott Gold to qualify for the Diamond challenge. It took me about 3 days from emailing to get the status match to Hyatt Diamond.

Introduction to The Pointiff

Hey there.  Welcome to The Pointiff.

I like law-related stuff.  I also like points-related stuff.

So this is going to be a clearinghouse for me to post my pontifications (POINT-ifications!) on those subjects.