I’ve had my AmEx Business Platinum card for 5 years, and have extensively written about all of the ways that I maximize the card’s benefits year after year. Forgive for what I’m about to say, but there’s one valuable perk that I vaguely knew about, but haven’t batted an eye at until yesterday – the International Airline Program.
What Exactly is the American Express International Airline Program?
The AmEx International Airline Program is available to Platinum and Business Platinum card holders, and it offers [substantial] savings on international First, Business, and Premium Economy class tickets on over 20 participating airlines.
To access these fares, you’ll have to call American Express Travel and have an agent do the searching for you. The numbers to call are 1-800-525-3355 for Platinum Travel Service or 1-800-553-9497 for Business Platinum Travel Service.
Discounts vary and are good for up to 8 tickets per reservation on both refundable and non-refundable fares. You can elect to use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points to pay for the fare, or charge the tickets to your Platinum Card (business and personal Platinum cards both earn 5x on airfare purchases with AmEx Travel). Each ticket is subject to a $39 service fee.
Of course I am saving the best for last – the tickets are like any other paid business class ticket purchased directly from an airline, meaning you can earn miles when you fly, regardless if you pay using your points or with your Platinum card.
The Back Story
Now that I’ve explained how it all works, allow me to share my very own first hand experience. A friend of mine was looking to find two last-minute paid business class flights to Naples, Italy for a special trip. As expected, those fares just happened to be extremely expensive over Labor Day Weekend (and forget about award availability).
I know many other bloggers have previously written about the American Express International Airline program flight discount benefits. Some have even conducted their own pricing experiments – often resulting in a savings of 12-15% (which is still generous if paid business class is regularly a part of your life / travel patterns); however, I was more than pleasantly surprised by my own experiment.
I called American Express Travel, and an agent answered very quickly. I gave her the dates I was interested in and she gave me some options, starting with the cheapest available – $2737.71 per person + $39 service fee per ticket. That option was pretty decent and seemed to be a good fit for what my friend was looking for.
Instead of booking, I asked if it would be possible to hold the reservation and for her to send over an email summary. To my surprise, the said that a free 48-hour hold was permitted with absolutely no obligation or credit card. If the ticket was not purchased by the end of the hold period, it would automatically cancel.
Now that I knew the “discounted” price, I wanted to compare it to what was publicly available. Using Google Flights, I reproduced the exact same itinerary on the same dates and say that it was pricing for $5,634 per person!
Did AmEx really pull through 50% savings on a paid business class ticket? I’d say so!
Take a look at the comparison:
CURRENT FARE IS 2737.71 PER PERSON PLUS 39.00 SERVICE FEE PER TICKET
This itinerary is a reservation only. This reservation will not be ticketed or price guaranteed until ticketing authorization is received. Please contact your travel office by 11:59 PM on August 01, or this entire reservation will automatically cancel.
Overall I can say that the AmEx International Airline Program for flight discounts can indeed be a great way to save money on paid premium cabin airfare. While I rarely purchase international paid business class tickets myself, I can’t believe I haven’t experimented with this option sooner. Plus, with free holds and no obligation, it gives you an extra cushion while you search for your perfect itinerary.
On a side note, if you currently don’t have an AmEx Platinum card (what are you waiting for?!), currently there’s a lucrative 100,000 point sign-up bonus available to some people via the CardMatch tool. You can check to see if you’re targeted here.
Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences using AmEx Travel for flight discounts!