SWISS First Class Cash Upgrades

This would be filed under Worth Being Aware of rather than What a Deal. Do this ASAP.
SWISS first class is quite exclusive

SWISS offers first-class on its long haul fleet including A330s and 777s. It is solid and ranks among my top ten best first-class experiences in the world.

It's not easy to redeem miles for SWISS first-class.

SWISS does not offer first-class award seats to frequent flyer program members.

Miles & More Senator elite members can book SWISS first-class award seats. Not only is it difficult to get Senator status, but Miles & More also imposes fuel surcharges on award flights. The points currency is difficult to obtain (Miles & More does not partner with any major transferable currencies).

The only way to get SWISS first-class is to pay full price. Sometimes, SWISS has first-class fares that are well paid. In these cases first class can be a bargain. This is often between city pairs like Stockholm to Dubai or itineraries to and from Zurich, where SWISS has much more pricing power.

I believe there is another way to get into SWISS First Class. It is worth mentioning.

SWISS 777-30ER first class seat

SWISS sells first-class upgrades at the airport

SWISS is a frequent airline I use. I usually fly in business class and almost always earn miles through partner airlines frequent flyer programs like Avianca LifeMiles or Air Canada Aeroplan. This allows me to get great award rates and not have to pay fuel surcharges for one-way business class tickets from the United States to Europe.

SWISS offers a first-class bid upgrade program. This allows you to bid on an upgrade that can clear between 48 hours and 132 hours prior to departure. You must be on a SWISS-issued ticket. This could be helpful if you are able to find a discount business class ticket. However, it is not ideal if you're booking a ticket using miles through a partner program (in this case another airline would be issuing the ticket).

Here's where the interesting trick comes in. It seems that SWISS allows cash upgrades at the airport, from business to first-class, as well as partner award tickets. You can, however, upgrade your SWISS partner award ticket from business to first class for cash, provided that it is available.

Funny thing is, I was able to call my friends and ask them about upgrades. Both agents were familiar with the policy, and they consulted a chart listing the pricing.

What is the SWISS charge for upgrades from business to first class on partner award tickets

Chicago to Zurich: $999

Los Angeles to Zurich: $1,789

OMAAT readers, please send me more data. I would appreciate it if you had a partner SWISS business-class award ticket in the near future. If so, could you ask what the cost of a paid upgrade at the airport? I'm curious to know if it is different for flights that originate in Europe or the United States and if the upgrade price is the same for each market. These are the only data points I have.

My theory is that upgrading to a shorter flight on long haul costs $999, and the upgrade to a longer flight on long haul costs $1,789.

SWISS first-class catering

Is it worth upgrading to SWISS first-class cash?

It is obvious that SWISS first-class cash upgrades don't offer any extraordinary value on the day you depart, as opposed to the Skywards opportunities to upgrade Emirates flights.

This could still be a great value for special occasions, depending on your perspective.

The $999 upgrade price could be considered a great value. However, the $1,789 upgrade fee is difficult to justify as there are no incremental services for longer, long-haul flights.

Although I don't have any data to confirm this, I believe it could be worth the cost for a daytime flight from Zurich to the United States. This is especially true if you can access the SWISS first class lounge which I consider one of the finest in the world.

It all depends on how you frame the situation. Many people will ask why they would pay $1,000 more for first class on an 8-hour flight, when they can get a flat bed in business and solid food and drinks.

SWISS 777-30ER business class seat

The other hand:

The upgrade cost of $1,000 is marginally less than the $800 fuel surcharge that you would pay if you booked a first-class award from the United States through Miles & More. This does not take into account the fact that many people don't have the status to book these awards.

Paid upgrades on departure day generally give you the last seat availability and not are restricted to award availability.

SWISS offers amazing seasonal menus in its first class. It all depends on your preference. We have seen them offer everything from truffle tastings to caviar in their first class.

Is it worth the extra expense? It all depends on who you ask and what you value in premium travel. In relative terms, this is close to the only option to redeem miles to SWISS first-class travel. This is available only to elite Miles & More members.

SWISS first class lounge Zurich

Bottom line

SWISS appears to offer first-class upgrades for cash on departure day, even if you are traveling on an award ticket in business class through a partner airline. Based on my initial data, an upgrade to a shorter flight (such as Chicago to Zurich) will cost $999 and an upgrade to a longer flight (such as Los Angeles to Zurich) $1,789 respectively.

I'm not suggesting this is a great deal. It is just something to be aware of given the elusive SWISS first-class. Some people might find the $999 upgrade price worth it while others will consider it a waste.

I would love to know more about the upgrade costs for any SWISS business class flights you are taking on partner award tickets.

Anyone have any experience with paying for upgrades to SWISS first-class on the day of departure? Are you willing to upgrade to SWISS first-class for $999