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

Jun 19, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our free daily newsletter!

In This Post

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

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?

Swiss A340 Business Class Seat
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.

Newark to Zurich round-trip business class pricing on United
(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.

Newark to Zurich ANA round-trip business class award on United
(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: 30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. 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: 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your 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

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.