Category Archives: Business Class

Earn United MileagePlus in Swiss Business Class

Swiss International Airlines, a Star Alliance member

A recent round of business trips took me from Singapore to Dubai to New York and back, literally around the world. For a combination of reasons, including cheaper business class tickets and the opportunity to earn United MileagePlus miles (which are rated as some of the most valuable), I chose to book the trips on a mix of Star Alliance carriers. My Dubai to New York leg had a layover in Zurich, and the first leg of the flight was on Swiss Business Class . I always prefer non-stop flights, but for some reason I was REALLY looking forward to my flight on Swiss International Airlines. The word ‘Swiss’ by itself connotes precision, quality, cleanliness, sophistication, and a guarantee that it runs like clockwork.

Since I was going to bank the miles from this Swiss flight to my United MileagePlus account, I was glad to discover that Swiss is one of the absolute best partner airlines you can fly for United miles (on par with Lufthansa and ANA). That’s because they recognize your MileagePlus Premier Gold status and give you the 50% bonus earned miles on top of the 175% base miles for business class (J fare class), and 150% PQM. (See MileagePlus Earnings Table for Swiss fare classes)

New Business Class seats on Swiss A330-300

New Business Class seats on Swiss A330-300

The aircraft was a fairly new Airbus A330-300, and it was fitted with the newer business class seats in 1-2-1 configuration. The seats are simple, comfortable, and functional with brown tones and wood veneer finish– screaming Swiss in every way. The seats with air adjustable cushion firmness transform into lie-flat beds at the press of a button, perfect for this overnight flight. The breakfast menu, presented as a booklet and pen where you tick your choices, had excellent selection (including Swiss pastries. I especially enjoyed the business class amenity kit – a cross between an brushed aluminum lunch box and an antique medicine case. The service is best described as no-nonsense friendliness, nothing overly exaggerated as seen with some Asian and Middle Eastern airlines.

Swiss is a member of the Miles and More awards program, shared among 10 European airlines including:

Swiss Business Class Breakfast Menu

Swiss Business Class Breakfast Menu

– Lufthansa
- Austrian Airlines
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Swiss International Airlines
- Adria Airways
- Croatia Airlines
- Condor
- Luxair
- Brussels Airlines
- Germanwings

Lucky for you, it is a great time to be a Miles and More program member. There is a limited time 50,000 mile bonus on the Miles & More Premier World Mastercard from Barclaycard.  You receive 20,000 award miles after your first purchase and 30,000 additional miles after spending $5000 within the first 90 days. Benefits include:

Special 50,000 mile bonus offer NOW

2 awards miles per $1 spent on Miles and More program airlines, and 1 mile per $1 on all other spending

* annual companion ticket after your first purchase and annually thereafter

* NO foreign transaction fees

* complementary online FICO credit score access

* annual fee of $79, waived for Senator and HON Circle members

Zurich, great for a long layover

Zurich, great for a long layover

In my opinion this is a great offer for those who travel to and within Europe often as you will have greater access to award seats on airlines such as Lufthansa and Swiss, who offer superior Business Class products versus US carriers. Oh, and Zurich is a beautiful city and extremely convenient from the airport (15 minutes by train) to spend a couple hours if you have a long layover!


Vietnam Airlines upgrade with Optiontown

I just returned from my long weekend trip from Singapore (my current home) to Hanoi, Vietnam. Let me tell you about my Vietnam Airlines upgrade experience with Optiontown.

This is officially my first trip since launching Rewards Guy, and I must confess – I sinned, I paid for my flights. Any savvy award points user knows that points have an certain “minimal acceptable value” – in most cases I place the value of frequent flier miles around 1.5 cents per point (see valuation chart from ThePointsGuy). In this case, the cost of the super saver economy seats I found on Vietnam Airlines, a Skyteam alliance member, trumped using what few Delta miles I do have.

I then discovered Optiontown, a website that offers business class and first class upgrades for a discounted price. I can understand why some airlines would join Optiontown – it assures that they can at least fill their premium class seats if they wish and gain some additional seat revenue. Currently, the list of participating airlines is limited and scattered, mostly constituting 2 or 3 star Skytrax rated airlines:

Optiontown offers discount upgrades

– Adria Airways  (A Star Alliance)
– Aeromexico  (Skyeam)
 – Air Baltic
 – Air Europa  (Skyteam)
 – Air India  (Star Alliance)
 – Air Asia X
 – Biman Bangladesh
 – Corsair
 – Cyprus Airways
 – Insel Air
 – SAS  (Star Alliance)
 – Ukraine International
 – Vietnam Airlines  (Skyteam)

All said and done, I would pay approximately $80 each way for the option to upgrade to Vietnam Airlines business class – if available and accepted by the airline (you get refunded if not upgraded). I got lucky, I think…because I have no prior experience with Optiontown so I don’t know what the success rate is. Both my outbound and inbound flights were upgraded for the total of $160. That is pretty good considering it is a 3 hour flight in each direction.

VN Business Class

VN Business Class

The business class seats on this short haul Airbus A321 were of the basic “old school” variety. A wider and more bolstered seat with extra legroom and pitch, it got the job done. After all, who does not enjoy taking a holiday flight in business class rather than economy? With Optiontown, you too might find yourself a discounted upgrade to business or first class for your next vacation.

**Note that according to Optiontown’s website, travelers who receive discounted upgrades are not necessarily granted access to usual premium class benefits such as Lounge access and additional bonus frequent flier miles. However, there have certainly been cases where flyers have received these benefits from airlines. For example, I was allowed to use the Skyteam lounge at Singapore’s Changi Airport and the Vietnam Airlines lounge at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport.