We're flying to Zurich from USA and arive 8:40 AM in Sept. We would like to catch the 10:40 AM train from Zurich to Innsbruck. Do we have enough time to clear customs, take the train from Zurich airport to the Zurich main rail station and find the train to Innsbruck? We have a rail pass. Should we reserve seats?
If you clear immigration/passport control in time to catch the 10:20 S-Bahn, you'll arrive at the Zuerich HB at 10:33, giving you seven minutes to connect to the 10:40 Railjet to Innsbruck. Both the Swiss Rail site and the German Rail site list this route. Seven minutes may not seem like enough time, but it really is. If you manage to catch erther the 10:10 IR train or the 10:13 IC train, you'll have even more connection time. Of course, if your plane is late, all bets are off. According to the Swiss Rail site, seat reservations are recommended but not required on the Railjet. The price is 5.00 CHF.
In my experience with landing in Europe at other airports (FRA, STR, MUC), that should be enough time. However, there are too many variables to say for sure. I'm usually through customs (a walk through) and immigration and at the airport train station within about an hour. According to Swiss Rail (www.sbb.ch), you need to take the 10:20 S-Bahn from the airport to the Hbf (10:33), and that will give you 7 min to get to the 10:40 RJ to Innsbruck. Here is the layout plan of the Zürich Hbf. The S-Bahn comes in on track 53, which is a stub track coming part way into the station. When you walk to the end of the track, you will be on the platform with track 3, which is the track from which the RJ departs. However, on several occasions I have been an hour late landing in Europe. I would not get reservations for the train to Innsbruck before I got to the Zürich airport. After immigration and customs, go to the station and activate your pass. (You'll have to do that at the at the station whether you have reservations in advance, or not.) They will tell you which train you have time to catch, and you can reserve at that time.
IF your plane is on time you should have no trouble at all. Zürich is a very easy airport to negotiate (and fun, with the entertainment they provide on the train that takes you between terminals). The passport control lines are short and move very fast. Assuming you have carryon luggage you just walk through the customs door ("green lline" for nothing to declare) and follow the signs to the train station. Trains depart for the Zürich main station every few minutes. We are generally at the downtown main station within an hour or so after disembarking the plane. But it all depends on your plane being on time. As Lee suggested, you could just wait until you land. Go to the train station in the airport to make your seat reservations to Innsbruck on an appropriately-timed train. That station is much faster than the main station, which often has lines of 10 to 15 minutes for ticket agents.
Lola, Lee & Tim, Thanks for taking the time to reply. Your very helpful advice about the trains gives us the confidence on what to do once we land in Zurich. Poz