Is Amex’s International Airline Program Finally Worth Using?

American Express International Airline Program

The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN have long provided cardholders with the option to purchase business class and first class tickets with a 2-for-1 perk. This so-called benefit was provided by their International Airline Program, but in reality it wasn’t much of a benefit at all.

To book the 2-for-1 deal, you were required to purchase a full fare business or first class ticket. Unsurprisingly, these fares are often double the cost of just 2 discounted business or first class fares. As a result of the fare class restriction, this “benefit” wasn’t really useful.

American Express International Airline Program Partners

It seems American Express is now realizing this, and they have completely overhauled their International Airline Program. Rather than fare-restricted 2-for-1 deals, the program now offers discounts on premium cabin travel, including first, business, and even premium economy class travel.

The biggest restriction on these flights is that they must originate from and return to a North American gateway airport such as New York City (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), or select Canadian gateway airports.

Currently, the program has 18 international airline partners:

International Airline Program Partners
Air China Cathay Pacific Japan Airlines
Air France China Airlines KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Air New Zealand Delta Air Lines LATAM Airlines
Alitalia Emirates Virgin Atlantic
Asiana Airlines Etihad Airways South African Airways
British Airways Iberia Qatar Airways

One of the best parts of this new structure is that any first, business, or premium economy flight is eligible for the discount if you can find it on Amex Travel. Depending on the flight you find, this could be a particularly nice benefit!

However, one disappointing aspect is that you have to call American Express to book and receive the discount. You even have to call just to find out what the discount will be. So, once you find a flight on Amex Travel that you want to book, you won’t know the actual discount until you call.

If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you need to call 1-800-525-3355. If you have The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN, you will need to call 1-800-492-8468.

Frustratingly, when you book these discounted flights over the phone, you also get hit with a $39 service charge per ticket. Not only is this a hurdle, but the service fee eats into the discount!

Ideally, we’d like to see Amex remove the requirement to call, or at least allow cardholders to see the discounted price online. When you consider that the International Airline Program allows you to book up to 8 tickets, that $39 service fee could become a very annoying additional charge!

The service fee is waived for those who have a Centurion® Card from American Express.

Another interesting piece of this program is the ability to redeem your Membership Rewards via Pay with Points. You might be wondering if that means that those with The Enhanced Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN will receive the 35% rebate benefit when booking these discounted premium cabin flights.

We spoke with an American Express representative who informed us that the 35% rebate will not apply to Pay with Points bookings through the International Airline Program. This is unfortunate since it would have made this benefit much more useful taken the sting out of American Express’ decision to reduce the rebate from 50% to 35%.

Like any other booking through American Express Travel, the flights you book with this program will earn miles from the airline you fly or the airline loyalty program you choose to credit. This can be a nice boost if you travel for work and are trying to earn airline elite status.

We’re sure to see much more talk of this program with the new changes. If you’re booking a business class or premium economy ticket, it might be worth checking to see if Amex’s International Airline Program can get you a better bang for your buck.

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