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Zermatt: Gateway to the Matterhorn

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Zermatt: Gateway to the Matterhorn

The Swiss call the Matterhorn “the mountain of the mountains”, which is a particularly impressive designation, given its location in the Alps. This nearly triangular rock towers over beautiful Riffelsee Lake, and it is so famous that Disneyland decided to build a 147-foot-high replica in its honor. Zermatt is a peaceful village that serves as a base camp for exploring the Matterhorn. It offers dozens of restaurants, cafes and lounges to keep you entertained after hiking and adventuring on the mountain. If you’re considering a trip to the Alps, now is the perfect time to go. The first successful ascent of the Matterhorn took place 150 years ago, in 1865, so there are celebrations, festivals and special events scheduled throughout the year. Switzerland has never been a budget-friendly destination, so it’s nice to know that you can pay for your airfare with miles. In fact, you can reach Zermatt from several cities, making it easy to find an award flight.

 by trainby carby helicopter
Zurich3.5 hr.3.5 hr.1 hr.
Geneva4 hr.3 hr.45 min.
Basel4 hr.3.5 hr.1 hr. 10 min.
Milano4 hr.3 hr.-
Lugano/Agno5 hr.3.5 hr.35 min.
Sion2 hr.1.5 hr.15 min.
Bern2 hr.2.5 hr.35 min.
Locarno4.5 hr.3 hr.30 min.

Most visitors use Zurich or Geneva as a starting point for their railway journey to Zermatt. Airlines from all three major alliances fly to both of those cities. Zurich and Geneva have railway stations located in their airports, which makes for an easy transfer. And the train ride through the Alps is its own breathtaking sightseeing tour. You will begin your vacation long before you even arrive at your hotel.

Riverside cafes and restaurants in Zermatt
Riverside cafes and restaurants in Zermatt

AAdvantage Miles and the oneworld alliance

The following oneworld members fly to Zurich and Geneva:

  • US Airways nonstop from Philadelphia, seasonally
  • airberlin via Berlin and Dusseldorf
  • Niki via Vienna
  • British Airways via London
  • Finnair via Helsinki
  • Iberia via Madrid

American Airlines also flies nonstop to Zurich, but not to Geneva. British Airways levies a substantial fuel surcharge on flights from the U.S., so you will save hundreds of dollars flying on American Airlines to London, and then British Airways to Zurich or Geneva. Also note that British Airlines flies to Zurich from London City Airport, which means that you will need a land transfer from Heathrow. Round-trip tickets cost:

  • 40,000 miles off-peak in economy (October 15 to May 15)
  • 60,000 in economy
  • 100,000 in business
  • 125,000 in first

Zermatt hosts several festivals throughout the year
Zermatt hosts several festivals throughout the year

MileagePlus Miles and the Star Alliance

The following Star Alliance members fly to Geneva and Zurich:

  • United nonstop from New York and Washington, D.C.
  • Swiss nonstop from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York
  • Air Canada via Toronto
  • Austrian Airlines via Vienna
  • Croatia Airlines via Zagreb
  • Lufthansa via Frankfurt and Munich
  • SAS via Copenhagen and Stockholm
  • TAP Portugal via Lisbon and Porto
  • Turkish Airlines via Istanbul

Although Aer Lingus is not a Star Alliance member, it is a United Airlines partner. It flies to Zurich and Geneva via Dublin. Flights to Geneva are also available from:

  • Air Canada via Montreal
  • Brussels Airlines via Brussels

These airlines fly to Zurich:

  • Croatia Airlines seasonally via Dubrovnik and Slip
  • LOT Polish Airlines via Warsaw starting January 2016
  • SAS via Oslo

Round-trip tickets cost:

  • 70,000 miles in economy
  • 140,000 to 160,000 in business
  • 160,000 to 240,000 in first

Oberhofen Castle in Switzerland
Oberhofen Castle in Switzerland

SkyMiles and the SkyTeam

The following SkyTeam members fly to Geneva and Zurich:

  • Aeroflot via Moscow
  • Air France via Paris
  • Alitalia via Rome
  • KLM via Amsterdam

Delta flies nonstop to Zurich from New York and, seasonally, from Atlanta. Czech Airlines will fly to Geneva via Stuttgart starting in September 2015. Round-trip tickets cost:

  • 62,500 miles in economy
  • 125,000 in business

First class tickets cannot be purchased with SkyMiles. Economy class tickets to Switzerland cost roughly the same with all of the alliances, with the exception of American Airlines off-peak awards. You’ll get the best value for your miles if you can fly between October 15 and May 15. For a premium cabin, oneworld offers the best rates, as it does for any flight to Europe.

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