There are first class awards that are tough to book with miles through a partner program, like Qantas first, Qatar first, Etihad first, etc. Then there are awards that are generally impossible to book with miles through a partner program, like Air France first and Swiss first.
Back in the day Swiss was one of the most generous airlines out there when it came to releasing first class award space, and I remember many instances where they made all eight first class seats available as awards. That’s why I had reviewed them a few times in the past, at least going back a few years.
Unfortunately that changed in 2013, when Swiss added a restriction to first class redemptions. As of 2013, only elite members in the Miles & More program can redeem miles for Swiss first class. That’s where the motivation for planning this trip started.
Back in June of this year there was a brief period where Swiss first class became bookable with partner miles. I’m not sure how or why this happened, though it did.
This was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down, especially given that Swiss has new 777s with an updated first class product, and also given that Swiss has a brand new first class lounge in Zurich, which looks fantastic.
Swiss first class lounge Zurich
So I ended up redeeming 70,000 Aeroplan miles for the ticket, which I transferred over from American Express Membership Rewards. Those are points I primarily earned with The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, etc.
While Aeroplan imposes fuel surcharges for award tickets on some airlines, Swiss isn’t among them, so the total cost of the ticket was 70,000 miles plus $51.57 in taxes and fees.
Swiss 777-300ER first class
I only had a few days to take this trip, so I needed to find a way to get from Los Angeles to Europe a couple of days prior. As you guys know, I’m trying to review as many new airlines as possible, and I recently shared the next airlines that were on my list.
Based on that, the most logical airline to fly was Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Paris, given that they had award availability in business class on the exact date I needed. I knew they had angled seats and it likely wouldn’t be an amazing flight, but I thought it would make an interesting review. I was supposed to fly Air Tahiti Nui business class from Auckland to Tahiti to Los Angeles a couple of months ago, but due to a last minute emergency had to cancel that ticket.
I booked this ticket using American AAdvantage miles, which cost 57,500 miles plus $5.60 in taxes for the one-way ticket.
Air Tahiti Nui A340 business class
Then I just needed to get between Paris and Zurich. I had a few options for this:
- I could try to add it to my Air Tahiti Nui ticket, which I booked through American AAdvantage, but that would require an additional connection, and just didn’t seem worthwhile in this instance
- I could modify my Swiss ticket, which would incur a $90 change fee, plus the difference in taxes (which would be significantly higher out of Paris than out of Zurich
- I could just book a nonstop economy ticket on Swiss on my preferred flight for $120, which seemed like the easiest and most practical option
So I just booked a paid ticket in economy on that flight. In the end, the routing looked as follows:
11/12 TN8 Los Angeles to Paris departing 11:25AM arriving 7:20AM [Business Class]
Cost: 57,500 AAdvantage miles + $5.60
11/13 LX633 Paris to Zurich departing 9:55AM arriving 11:15AM [Economy Class]
11/14 LX40 Zurich to Los Angeles departing 1:10PM arriving 4:20PM [First Class]
Cost: 70,000 Aeroplan miles + $51.57
With my routing I’d have just one night in Zurich. While I love Zurich as a city, I was trying to be realistic, and knew I wouldn’t have time to do a whole lot of sightseeing while there. I was just getting over a nasty cold, I knew I wouldn’t get a very good night of sleep on the flight over, and I knew I wanted to go to Zurich Airport at the crack of dawn in order to be able to review the lounge.
So I decided that the most practical option was booking the Hilton Zurich Airport, which is a short shuttle ride from the airport. My rate for the one night stay was ~$164, which isn’t especially cheap, though for that I’d earn 13,000+ points, thanks to the great promotions Hilton Honors is running at the moment.
Hilton Zurich Airport
This was another fun whirlwind trip, where I spent just 24 hours in Europe. I’m so happy I had the chance to try Swiss first class again, to see what (if anything) has changed in the past few years. I’m also happy I finally got to try Air Tahiti Nui, given how they’re usually pretty good about making award seats available to Europe, and also are the best airline for flights to Tahiti.
I hope to have this entire trip report published this week. I’m also happy to have a bit of a break from international travel, as this was the last of five big international trips I had planned for this fall.