Summer 2021 is likely to look a lot different, a lot more normal, than the world looks today. It’s as far out as you can book a ticket on most airlines. And the great thing about using miles in most programs is how flexible they are. Worst case scenario a usually modest fee. I haven’t made any international trips since the beginning of the year, but I’m booking plenty of them to lock in my options using miles.
Swiss is making tremendous business class award space available between North America and Zurich for summer 2021. You can find four or more business class awards not just from East Coast gateways like New York JFK (and Newark) and from Chicago but even from Los Angeles and San Francisco, which used to be nearly impossible to find. From Zurich you can connect beyond to myriad destinations you might like to visit.
Spencer Howard has done a great job keeping up on frequent flyer award space as it becomes available while many people aren’t searching awards as much as we once were. Spencer runs a free email newsletter where he sends out award availability alerts, and this is a find he’s just flagged.
Where The Award Seats Are
Between June and August 2021 there’s great availability between Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago in the U.S. and Zurich. Summer is peak season when people want to visit Europe. It’s far enough out that there’s a really good chance that a combination of vaccines, treatments, and the virus running its course will have things back to normal. And Europe won’t want to miss out on next year’s tourist boom.
All cities are wide open most dates between June 1 and August 9, with availability tapering off significantly after that.
Here’s a look at current award availability San Francisco – Zurich for four passengers in business class in July – you rarely ever used to see even one business class seat on the route. Ample space is available both directions.
How To Book
While Air Canada Aeroplan’s price will be going up next month, right now they charge just 55,000 miles each way between the U.S. and nearer Europe and they don’t add fuel surcharges to awards on Swiss. Aeroplan is an American Express transfer partner, and points move over instantly. This is the best way to book these awards right now, if you have the points.
The cheapest mileage cost most people can access is Amex transfer partner ANA, which takes just 88,000 miles roundtrip. The mileage savings aren’t worth it because (1) points do not transfer instantly, and (2) ANA adds fuel surcharges to the award. Saving 22,000 points compared to Aeroplan doesn’t justify over $1000 in fees. (Asiana charges just 40,000 miles but unless you have Asiana’s credit card you probably don’t have Asiana miles – and again, fuel surcharges.)
Working with United miles (or Chase points transferred to United) you can book for 70,000 miles each way using MileagePlus.
Working with Citi’s ThankYou Rewards, consider transferring to Avianca LifeMiles which charges 63,000 miles each way (or less if combined with a coach flight segment). You may have purchased Avianca LifeMiles in the past and if so this is a great opportunity to redeem them.