Switzerland is reopening, and you can fly there with wide-open business-class award space
Switzerland recently announced that it plans to reopen to tourists on June 28, so Americans will again be able to visit the Swiss Alps and bustling cities like Zurich and Geneva. This can be a great way to take a break from the work-from-home grind and explore a new country (or revisit an old favorite).
Switzerland and the U.S. are well-connected by air. Numerous U.S. airlines fly to Zurich (ZRH), and Swiss flies from both Zurich (ZRH) and Geneva (GVA) to major U.S. cities. In a recent hunt for award space, I found that Swiss and United Airlines have wide-open business class award space from the U.S. to Zurich this summer and early fall. Most space is from New York City, but others have open business class seats as well.
You can book these award tickets with United MileagePlus miles or any major Star Alliance transfer partner. This includes American Express Membership Rewards partners like Air Canada Aeroplan, and ANA Mileage Club and Avianca LifeMiles. You'll get a great deal on a comfortable flight to a newly reopened Switzerland regardless of how you book.
So if Switzerland has been at the top of your travel bucket list, now's the time to book your flights. I'll give you a closer look at open award space and how to book award flights to Switzerland in this article.
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Airline: Swiss and United Airlines
Routes: Dozens of continental U.S. cities to Switzerland, round-trip
Cost: From 88,000 Amex points round-trip (transferred to ANA Mileage Club)
Dates: Now through early Fall 2021
How to book: Find award space with your favorite Star Alliance search tool and transfer points to book your ticket.
If transferring Amex points, you'll find the best points pricing with ANA Mileage Club, but will pay high fuel surcharges on Swiss tickets. Consider booking Swiss-operated tickets with Aeroplan or LifeMiles at a higher mileage rate to avoid paying these surcharges. Or, book United-operated tickets with ANA.
You can also book with United miles. These transfer in from Chase Ultimate Rewards. Unfortunately, Untied charges the highest mileage price for transatlantic awards booked with partner airlines like Swiss.
Pay Taxes/Fees With: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline; on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on travel) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel) for travel protections on the award flight.
Related: How Swiss business class manages to remain excellent — even during a pandemic
Is it worth it?
Round-trip tickets from the U.S. to Zurich (ZRH) and Geneva (GVA) typically cost thousands of dollars. For example, this round-trip ticket from Newark (EWR) to Zurich (ZRH) in United Polaris business class costs $4,443 round-trip.
I expect premium airfare to stay high from the U.S. to Switzerland through the summer due to the country's reopening. So, your miles have the potential to save you some serious coin on your transatlantic journey.
For example, if you book a United round-trip award by transferring 88,000 Amex points to ANA, you'll get 4.9 cents per point in value. TPG values Amex points at 2.0 cents per point, so this is an excellent redemption.
Of course, a country's reopening plans can change at the last minute. Make sure you fully understand the change and cancellation policy of the loyalty program you book with if you need to make changes at the last minute. Of the airlines on this list, you'll find that Aeroplan and United offer the most generous flexibility, while LifeMiles charges a fee to change or cancel.
Related: What to know about traveling to Europe this summer as an American
Here's the United and Swiss award space we found from the U.S. to Switzerland between July and September 2021. Note that you may be able to find more availability in the months following. If you don't see your airport, search and see if you can connect to Zurich through a United hub or Swiss gateway.
Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to/from Zurich (ZRH)
- July: 12-13, 19-20 and 26-28
- August: 2, 4, 9, 18 and 22-23
- September: 26
- July: 2-9 and 13-15
- August: 25
- September: 1, 8, 15-16, 22-23 and 29
New York-JFK/Newark (EWR) to/from Zurich (ZRH)
- July: 2-29
- August: 1-5 and 7-31
- September: 2-30
- July: 1-26 and 28-30
- August: 2-13, 16-21, 23-27 and 30-31
- September: 1-4 and 6-29
Washington-Dulles (IAD) to/from Zurich (ZRH)
- July: 4, 7-8, 10-12, 17-19, 23, 25-26 and 28.
- August: 1, 3 and 15.
- September: None
- July: 1-2, 4-6, 8-9, 13, 15-16 and 20.
- August: 27
- September: 3
Related: Book This, Not That: Star Alliance award tickets
Boosting your Membership Rewards balance
You can earn American Express Membership Rewards points by spending on an Amex card. Here's a look at some of my favorite Amex cards and their current welcome offers. Each of these cards has its own set of benefits and fees, so do your own research and see which is best for your wallet.
- American Express® Green Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Plus, 20% back on eligible travel and transit purchases in the first six months, up to $200 back in the form of a statement credit. Earn 3x points on dining at restaurants, travel and transit (including flights, hotels, taxis, tours, and ridesharing services), 1x points on all other purchases ($150 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of account opening. Earn 4x points on dining at restaurants; 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points); 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel; 1x points on all other purchases, ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or with American Express Travel (earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5x on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts; 1x on all other purchases, ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees).
Related: Move over Sapphire: Why I almost always go for Membership Rewards instead of Ultimate Rewards
Switzerland is reopening for tourism and this glut of award space can help you get there without breaking the bank. Consider booking your flights now if you're comfortable traveling abroad this summer. It could be just the trip you need to get back into the travel spirit.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Feature photo by canadastock / Shutterstock.com