Swiss Restricts First Class Redemptions to Top Elites – Don’t Worry You Didn’t Used to Be Able to Redeem for it Anyway

Via GhettoIFE, beginning January 1 first class award tickets on Swiss will only be available to Miles & More Senator and HON Circle members.

They will still allow other Miles & More members to redeem for upgrades on paid business class tickets to first class. But no more redemptions.

They claim this is because of “the prevailing market situation” which is a meaningless sentiment, almost as meaningless as calling this an ‘enhancement’. (And if this is really the product of current market conditions, when those change we can count on Swiss to change this approach right…?)

Nonetheless, it really only effects Miles & More members (and folks who would transfer points into Miles & More from other programs) as Swiss first class awards have not in any meaningful way been open to Star Alliance partner airlines over the past couple of years.

Turning the clock back four year Swiss first class was an easy get. There were at least two first class awards on most East Coast – Switzerland flights they operated. The West Coast flights weren’t regularly available, however.

They turned off the award spigot, initially making transatlantic seats available to partner airlines only in the days prior to departure. Other routes — especially Switzerland – India and also to North Africa — were more available.

In recent times even the last minute availability of first class awards for members of United’s and US Airways’ program pretty much disappeared. As a result, this restriction won’t materially change things for most readers.

You still could, however, get Swiss first class using Miles & More miles in the past. That window will shut come 2014. I do not see this as a significant loss. While they offer a very good transatlantic product, flights beyond Zurich and Geneva cost way more miles than they’re worth, on top of fuel surcharges charged, especially in comparison to other flight options.

The only worry is if this makes a similar move thinkable for Lufthansa first class awards, which are already tough to get with Star Alliance miles. Swiss has been run differently than Lufthansa and this doesn’t imply a similar move for the future elsewhere. Moreover, I do like their having given four months’ notice so that anyone who wishes to try their hand at a Swiss redemption may still do so.

Still, even though it won’t change the travel lives of many it’s a sad move to see.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] It’s a good interview, including bits like there will be the ability on specific request to earn under the old rate for tickets purchased prior to the September 19 announcement — this won’t happen automatically, and will be available only to those who know to ask. He also learns that there’s not currently an intention to limit Lufthansa first class redemption to elites the way such redemptions have been limited on Swiss. […]


  1. How many years until they bring this award option back to LH/LX/OS/LO customers at some much, much higher mileage ticket price and act as if they are doing the customers a favor? Anyone’s guess.

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