Amex International Airline Program (IAP) Guide

Amex International Airline Program (IAP) Guide

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The International Airline Program (IAP) is one of the lesser known perks of the Amex Platinum Card, and it offers discounts on international premium cabin airfares. In some cases the savings can be huge, and more than justify the annual fees on cards. In this post I wanted to cover everything you need to know about the program.

What is the Amex International Airline Program?

With the Amex International Airline Program, you can get exclusive savings on select airlines when booking through American Express. There are some basic things to be aware of:

  • The Amex IAP is available to those with The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review)
  • The Amex IAP is valid for international itineraries in first class, business class, and premium economy
  • The Amex IAP can be used on both refundable and non-refundable tickets
  • The Amex IAP can be used to purchase anywhere from one to eight tickets on the same flight
  • The Amex IAP offers discounts for flights originating in the United States, or select Canadian gateways
Save on Air France first class tickets with the Amex IAP

Which airlines qualify for the Amex International Airline Program?

The Amex International Airline Program is valid for select itineraries on the following 25+ airlines:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air China
  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • Alitalia
  • All Nippon Airways
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • KLM Royal Dutch
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM
  • Lufthansa
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • SWISS
  • Virgin Atlantic
Use the Amex IAP for a Lufthansa business class ticket

How do you book Amex International Airline Program tickets?

There are two ways to book a ticket through the Amex International Airline Program — you can either call Amex, or book through the Amex Travel website.

If you want to book by phone, call Amex Travel at one of the following numbers (note that bookings by phone are subjected to a $39 per person ticketing fee):

My preferred way to book is online, since it makes it easier to compare options, and it avoids having to pick up the phone. To look up Amex International Airline Program fares and book, simply go to amextravel.com, and then log into the account associated with your Amex Platinum. At that point search an eligible international itinerary.

After starting your search, you’ll notice that some results have “International Airline Program Platinum Card Benefit” written at the top, and those will be the options that are discounted. The original cost of the ticket will have a line through it, and then the “cheaper” price will display. For example, looking at a roundtrip nonstop Air France first class ticket between New York and Paris, the fare is discounted by around $1,000.

You’ll also see the option of redeeming Amex points for one cent each for these tickets, though we’ll talk a bit more about that below.

Of course it goes without saying that a roundtrip nonstop first class ticket for $7,000+ might not be the most affordable option available through the program. There are definitely better deals out there, though the savings won’t always be quite as big — generally the more expensive the ticket, the bigger the savings.

For example, you can fly roundtrip Virgin Atlantic business class from New York to Delhi for $2,198 through the program, which are savings of around $180 compared to the regular price of $2,379.

There are lots of options to sort results through Amex’s website, and you can narrow them down by the airline, travel time, number of stops, etc.

Combine Amex International Airline Program & Amex Pay with Points

As you can see above, you can use the Amex Pay With Points program to pay for an Amex IAP ticket either partly or entirely with points (you do need to redeem a minimum of 5,000 points, though).

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:

  • It’s valid for first and business class flights on any airline, or for any flight with your designated 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.

Getting 1.54 cents of value per Amex point while also getting savings on your ticket is a pretty awesome combo.

Save on a Qatar Airways ticket with the Amex IAP

Earn 5x points on Amex International Airline Program tickets

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. That’s because both cards offer 5x points on airfare booked through Amex Travel. I value those points at 1.7 cents each, so to me, that equates to an 8.5% return on those purchases.

On top of that, both versions of the Amex Platinum offer travel coverage in the event of irregular operations, including a trip being canceled, delayed, or interrupted. So by using one of these cards you’re not only earning 5x points, but you’re also getting valuable coverage.

Earn 5x points on Amex IAP bookings

Do you earn miles for Amex International Airline Program tickets?

Tickets booked through the Amex International Airline Program are eligible for mileage accrual, regardless of whether you pay cash or redeem Amex points using the Pay With Points feature. That’s because this is a fully paid ticket, and will qualify as such.

You can expect that you’ll earn miles and receive any elite perks as you usually would if booking direct. The one consideration would be that if you’re flying an airline with a revenue based frequent flyer program, you might earn miles at a slightly different pace than usual.

For example, American Airlines has a special mileage earning chart for “special fares,” which often includes third party bookings. With this, you earn miles as a percentage of distance flown, based on your fare class. In some cases that could even be advantageous.

Amex IAP tickets are eligible for mileage accrual

What about Amex Insider Fares?

Since we’re talking about discounted Amex airfare, I think it’s also worth mentioning Amex Insider Fares, which are similar in some ways, but ultimately different. What are Amex Insider fares?

  • Amex Insider Fares offer discounts when redeeming points for a ticket through the Pay With Points feature on Amex Travel
  • Amex Insider Fares are available to all cards earning Amex Membership Rewards points, and not just the Amex Platinum; fares will automatically show up when logged in on the Amex Travel website and doing a flight search
  • This is sometimes even available on domestic itineraries, unlike the Amex International Airline Program
  • Amex Insider Fares can be stacked with the up to 35% Pay With Points discount, but can’t be stacked directly with the Amex International Airline Program

This is worth being aware of, because when you do searches on Amex’s website, you may see some show up as Insider Fares, and some show up as being part of the International Airline Program.

My strategy with the Amex International Airline Program

What’s my strategy for using the Amex International Airline Program? In many cases airlines are pricing international premium cabins more reasonably than ever before, as they go after leisure travelers. So even though I have a lot of miles to redeem, I’m often browsing Google Flights looking for good paid first & business class fares.

Whenever I find a fare that I might be interested in booking, I always go to Amex Travel and see if there are any discounts available through the International Airline Program, and often there are. In that case it’s a no brainer to book through the program, so I can also earn 5x points on the purchase, and even get great travel coverage.

For those with the Amex Business Platinum Card, I think it could also make sense to use the Pay With Points feature, because in the end each point could get you 1.54 cents towards the cost of a premium cabin airfare purchase, which is solid.

Use the Amex IAP for Singapore Airlines tickets

Bottom line

The Amex International Airline Program is one of my favorite perks of both the Amex Personal Platinum Card and Amex Business Platinum Card. If you fly international premium cabins with any frequency, the savings afforded by the program can be huge, and pay for your annual fee over and over.

When you’re getting ready to book an international premium cabin ticket (even if it’s premium economy), I always recommend taking a look at Amex Travel to see what kind of a fare is being offered.

What has your experience been with the Amex International Airline Program? Have you ever used it?

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  1. iamhere

    Personal Amex card offers 5x points on direct airline purchases so there is no need to use this tool. The price for the ticket is about the same as most of the airlines directly. Furthermore, usually when you combine points and cash it is not a good deal. The drawback is you cannot search and book a mixed cabin ticket.

  2. AC

    I booked 3 Delta One tickets through the IAP and it was approximately $2500 cheaper than the EXACT same flights and seats on the Delta website. Amazing value. As you know, there are also some discounted domestic tickets from time to time (even in coach). While I'm not a fan of booking hotels through Amex travel (or any 3rd party) since you typically don't get the perks of your elite status (or even points in...

    I booked 3 Delta One tickets through the IAP and it was approximately $2500 cheaper than the EXACT same flights and seats on the Delta website. Amazing value. As you know, there are also some discounted domestic tickets from time to time (even in coach). While I'm not a fan of booking hotels through Amex travel (or any 3rd party) since you typically don't get the perks of your elite status (or even points in some cases), it is totally different w airlines. While I usually book air tickets on the carrier's website I have booked Delta (for IAP) and American (for a $200 one time credit last year on my Platinum card). In both cases my flight immediately showed up on the carrier's website with my frequent flyer number and I didn't notice any difference at all in status recognition, upgrade capability or points earning than if I booked directly with the airline. I know if I have to cancel or change I have to go through Amex but that is a small issues IMHO given the benefits.

  3. Antonio

    I'd like to know if the fares provided by the agents are the same seen on the web interface. All my searches on the web provide standard prices, even when logged with the platinum account. Thanks

  4. Mike C

    Thanks for posting this summary, Ben. I hadn't looked at this benefit, and you prompted me to look. Getting ready for when Australia is open again.

    The Australian version of Amex travel does not (unless I was doing something wrong) show you how much reduction it offers, so I searched for a random SYD-LAX trip next year before logging on, and again after doing so. In PE NZ was $AU500 less and QF and DL...

    Thanks for posting this summary, Ben. I hadn't looked at this benefit, and you prompted me to look. Getting ready for when Australia is open again.

    The Australian version of Amex travel does not (unless I was doing something wrong) show you how much reduction it offers, so I searched for a random SYD-LAX trip next year before logging on, and again after doing so. In PE NZ was $AU500 less and QF and DL c$AU250, do that's worth looking into when I can travel. (NZ was far cheaper to start with.) If I get into the habit of using the site, I might actually remember to use my Amex travel credit before it expires.

  5. BigRedBK

    I routinely use it to book premium economy or business on Austrian, where the savings are generally $100-$200 and $200-$300 respectively. A great way to get value out of the Platinum.

    @ryan t: On checkout it doesn't allow me to change the name of the passenger traveling, so that would be the major hurdle and indicates that is not allowed.

  6. Another Lump

    Do you get 5x even if you pay with points?

    The times when my plans are not flexible enough to book an award ticket(which almost always can be had for fewer points than IAP paying with points) and I need to fly in F/J, are pretty rare, but I guess it's good to have options.

  7. ryan t

    If I'm a platinum cardholder, can I book an IAP fare using my points for a flight for my wife? It looks to be against the terms since I'm not on the intin but it let me do it online.

  8. Slappy

    @Ben I don't understand the need to save points and book cash fares when you have millions of points on hand. You can only use points for travel, but you can use cash for ANYTHING.

    I do understand trying to get good value out of points, but generally speaking getting travel extremely discounted or "free" via points is almost always the best option when you can generate more points via typical day-to-day spend or a new signup bonus.

  9. sunluver

    I booked us (party of 4 adults) through AMEX Platinum back in early June for a trip to South Africa in April 2022 (going LAX to CPT ... return JNB to LAX) on Qatar Air Business Comfort Class (so we would get seat selection and lounge privileges in Doha) for $3,200pp! It was a smoking deal that beat what Qatar was charging plus 5X AMEX points on the cost.

    HINT: The AMEX Platinum site only...

    I booked us (party of 4 adults) through AMEX Platinum back in early June for a trip to South Africa in April 2022 (going LAX to CPT ... return JNB to LAX) on Qatar Air Business Comfort Class (so we would get seat selection and lounge privileges in Doha) for $3,200pp! It was a smoking deal that beat what Qatar was charging plus 5X AMEX points on the cost.

    HINT: The AMEX Platinum site only shows Qatar Air's "Classic" fare which is the one with no seat selection and no lounge access. Get Qatar's Comfort and Elite fares off of Qatar's own site then call AMEX Platinum to see if they will beat them.

    1. mark

      I was just going to post this about the fares on Qatar. I called and was able to get a great fare from ORD to TBS. It took them a while to figure it out, but it was $500 cheaper than on the site.

Featured Comments Load all 10 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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sunluver

I booked us (party of 4 adults) through AMEX Platinum back in early June for a trip to South Africa in April 2022 (going LAX to CPT ... return JNB to LAX) on Qatar Air Business Comfort Class (so we would get seat selection and lounge privileges in Doha) for $3,200pp! It was a smoking deal that beat what Qatar was charging plus 5X AMEX points on the cost. HINT: The AMEX Platinum site only shows Qatar Air's "Classic" fare which is the one with no seat selection and no lounge access. Get Qatar's Comfort and Elite fares off of Qatar's own site then call AMEX Platinum to see if they will beat them.

iamhere

Personal Amex card offers 5x points on direct airline purchases so there is no need to use this tool. The price for the ticket is about the same as most of the airlines directly. Furthermore, usually when you combine points and cash it is not a good deal. The drawback is you cannot search and book a mixed cabin ticket.

AC

I booked 3 Delta One tickets through the IAP and it was approximately $2500 cheaper than the EXACT same flights and seats on the Delta website. Amazing value. As you know, there are also some discounted domestic tickets from time to time (even in coach). While I'm not a fan of booking hotels through Amex travel (or any 3rd party) since you typically don't get the perks of your elite status (or even points in some cases), it is totally different w airlines. While I usually book air tickets on the carrier's website I have booked Delta (for IAP) and American (for a $200 one time credit last year on my Platinum card). In both cases my flight immediately showed up on the carrier's website with my frequent flyer number and I didn't notice any difference at all in status recognition, upgrade capability or points earning than if I booked directly with the airline. I know if I have to cancel or change I have to go through Amex but that is a small issues IMHO given the benefits.

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