The International Airline Program is one of the lesser known benefits of The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express. However, it’s also one of the perks that I’ve found to be the most valuable, as it has saved me a significant amount of money.
Now American Express has made this even better.
What is the Amex International Airline Program?
With the Amex International Airline Program (IAP), you can get exclusive savings on select airlines when booking through American Express. This is valid for international itineraries in first class, business class, and premium economy.
This can be used on both refundable and non-refundable tickets, and is valid for the purchase of 1-8 tickets on the same flight. The discount is available for flights originating in the US, and from select Canadian gateways.
Amex claims that the average savings are $150 roundtrip in premium economy, $300 roundtrip in business class, and $600 roundtrip in first class.
Which airlines is the Amex International Airline Program valid on?
The Amex International Airline Program is valid for select itineraries on the following 25 airlines:
- Air China
- Air France
- Air New Zealand
- Asiana Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- British Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- China Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
How do you book Amex International Airline Program tickets?
Up until now, the only way to inquire about fares and to book was to phone up Amex Travel:
- Call 1-800-525-3355 if you have the Amex Personal Platinum Card
- Call 1-800-553-9497 if you have the Amex Business Platinum Card
This was a rather time-consuming process, since you had to call every time to even find out about the fares. Furthermore, if you actually wanted to book, there was a $39 service fee.
The savings are almost always more than that, but that still eats into them a little.
That’s where there’s an exciting update. Amex International Airline Program tickets are now bookable online through amextravel.com. When you search for an itinerary, eligible flights will automatically reflect the lower price. You’ll be able to tell that an itinerary is eligible based on the “INTERNATIONAL AIRLINE PROGRAM: PLATINUM CARD BENEFIT” message at the top of the itinerary.
For example, take a Boston to Delhi business class itinerary.
When you get to the results page you’ll see a Qatar Airways itinerary where the standard price is $3,450, but through Amex IAP you pay only $3,133.
This is an awesome development. Not only do you save $39 if booking, but this also makes it significantly easier to search fares without having to pick up the phone.
Note that not all eligible itineraries may show discounts online, so in some cases, it could still make sense to call and make sure they don’t see discounts by phone when they don’t appear online.
International Airline Program + Amex Pay with Points
You can pay for an Amex International Airline Program ticket with points (either partly or completely — if redeeming partly, you need to redeem at least 5,000 points). The value you get depends on the card you have.
On the surface, both the Amex Personal Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card offer one cent of value towards the cost of a ticket. That means a $2,000 ticket would cost you 200,000 Membership Rewards points, which isn’t a very good deal.
Fortunately, the business version of the card has a 35% rebate on this feature, with some restrictions:
- Valid for first and business class flights on any airline, or for any flight with the selected qualifying airline
- You can get up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year using this method
- The 35% rebate is refunded after the fact, and will appear 6-10 weeks after the purchase appears on your billing statement
In other words, if you redeemed 200,000 Amex points for $2,000 worth of travel, you’d get 70,000 points back. So you’d essentially be paying 130,000 points for $2,000 worth of airfare, which is a value of ~1.54 cents per point. That’s a pretty solid deal and could be worthwhile, depending on what you’d otherwise do with your points.
Earn 5x points on airfare bookings
One of the other awesome things about booking through the Amex International Airline Program is that if you pay for your ticket with the Amex Personal Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card, you’ll earn 5x Membership Rewards points.
I value those points at 1.7 cents each, so to me, that equates to an 8.5% return on those purchases, which is excellent.
The Amex International Airline Program is a fantastic value, and I’ve saved thousands of dollars with this in the past couple of years. It works on most premium fares on the above airlines, so I’ve had several situations where I found a good business class fare to begin with, which only became better with the discount.
The fact that this is now bookable online makes it all the more valuable.
What has your experience been with the Amex IAP?
(Tip of the hat to Zach Honig)