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Switzerland is reopening, and you can fly there with wide-open business-class award space

June 19, 2021
8 min read
A view of Zurich from above
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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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The deal

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

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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?

Business class onboard Swiss' A340. (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of ana.co.jp)

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

Sample itineraries

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)

Outbound:

  • July: 12-13, 19-20 and 26-28
  • August: 2, 4, 9, 18 and 22-23
  • September: 26

Inbound:

  • 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)

Outbound:

  • July: 2-29
  • August: 1-5 and 7-31
  • September: 2-30

Inbound:

  • 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)

Outbound:

  • July: 4, 7-8, 10-12, 17-19, 23, 25-26 and 28.
  • August: 1, 3 and 15.
  • September: None

Inbound:

  • 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

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

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 45,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 3x points on dining at restaurants, travel and transit (including flights, hotels, transit, 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).

The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Move over Sapphire: Why I almost always go for Membership Rewards instead of Ultimate Rewards

Bottom line

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

Featured image by (Photo by canadastock / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more