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American Express International Airline Program: The Little-Known Secret to Huge Airfare Savings

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Andrew Kunesh
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Andrew Kunesh

Former Content Contributor

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Andrew’s a lifelong traveler who puts in over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew’s worked at Th...
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One of the lesser-known benefits of the The Platinum Card® from American Express is access to the International Airline Program. It gives you access to preferred pricing on international premium economy, business class, and first class tickets operated by a handful of American Express partner airlines.

It’s a shame that people overlook this program, because it can save you some serious money.

Anyone who books paid premium travel needs to use the International Airline Program before booking their next ticket. We’ve seen tickets discounted over 40%, bringing the price of some premium economy tickets down to the cost of a standard economy ticket for Amex Platinum cardholders.

But how do you use the program? And what kind of discount can you expect? We’ll show you the quirks and features of the American Express International Airline Program.

What Is the International Airline Program?

Greg Stone - Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 First Class - Side On
Book premium tickets at a discount with the International Airline Program. Image Credit: Greg Stone

With the International Airline Program, cardholders of the Amex Platinum card and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express save on premium international airfare when booking through American Express.

However, not all tickets are eligible for a discount — it only applies when booking airfare on participating airlines.

Thankfully, the list is pretty extensive. Airlines in the International Airline Program include:

SCROLL FOR MORE
Aer LingusAustrianJapan AirlinesSWISS
AeromexicoBrussels AirlinesKLMVirgin Atlantic
Air ChinaCathay PacificLATAM 
Air EuropaChina AirlinesLufthansa 
Air FranceDelta Air LinesQantas 
Air New ZealandEmiratesQatar Airways 
ANAEtihadRoyal Air Maroc 
Asiana AirlinesFinnairSingapore Airlines 

Discounts on these airlines are only available when you book international tickets in premium economy, business, or first class. Standard economy tickets aren’t eligible for the discount, nor are domestic tickets, whether for travel within the U.S. or another country.

All flights must depart from a U.S. airport or one of several Canadian gateways. Strangely, these gateways aren’t listed on the American Express website.

Select one-way itineraries are eligible for the International Airline Program discount, but not all. Again, this is a case where American Express does not elaborate on which routes and airlines offer discounts on a one-way ticket, so you have to search one-way routes on your own to see which do and do not offer discounts.

Further, you must pay for your ticket in full with an Amex Platinum card or Amex Business Platinum card. You earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar for an International Airline Program booking, as the program is powered by AmexTravel.com.

We value Membership Rewards at 2.2 cents per point, so you earn 11% back on your bookings. Check our monthly valuations for the most up-to-date information.

The Amex Platinum card and the Amex Business Platinum card can redeem points for flights at 1 cent per point, with the Amex Business Platinum card earning a 35% rebate after you book your flight. However, you’re still better off transferring points to Amex airline partners to book premium award tickets in most cases.

You can book tickets for yourself and up to 7 travel companions through the International Airline Program. Just note that the primary cardholder must be traveling to receive International Airline Program fares.

Refundable, restricted, and nonrefundable tickets are also eligible for the discount, so you’re not stuck booking high-fare classes to get the discount.

How Much Can You Save?

How much you can save with the International Airline Program significantly depends on what ticket you’re booking. There’s no set discount for airlines, routes, or destinations, so savings fluctuate ticket by ticket.

American Express notes that the International Airline Program saves customers an average of $150 on premium economy tickets, $300 on business class tickets, and $600 on first class tickets. However, our research found that you can save much more than this, especially on premium economy tickets to Europe.

We’ve searched for discounts for 3 regions (Asia, Europe, and the Middle East) in each booking class and have averaged the 3 numbers for an expected discount.

Premium Economy Discounts

To illustrate how much you can save, we found a round-trip premium economy ticket from John F. Kennedy International (JFK) to Athens (ATH) on Delta through the International Airline Program for around $2,200 flying in April 2024.

Amex IAP deal JFK ATH
Significant savings when booking through the International Airline Program. Image Credit: American Express

The same flights were a whopping $3,006 when booked via Google Flights, saving $800, or nearly 27%, off the flight’s standard price!

Delta JFK ATH price
Image Credit: Delta.com

You can also save money when booking premium economy tickets to Asia.

We searched for premium economy tickets from Newark (EWR) to Singapore (SIN) and found nonstop tickets on Singapore Airlines for $1,062 through the International Airline Program.

EWR SIN IAP deal
We saved 15% just by using the IAP! Image Credit: American Express

This same ticket costs $1,250 when booked through Google Flights, yielding a discount of $188 or roughly 15%.

EWR SIN SQ PE
Image Credit: Google Flights

Finally, let’s use an example of a flight from JFK to Dubai (DXB) on Emirates. Finding premium economy flights to the Middle East is tricky, since many airlines that offer premium economy aren’t IAP members. However, Emirates is a member of the program.

We found an IAP-eligible flight for just $3,179 for a round-trip in premium economy.

JFK DXB EK PE
Image Credit: American Express

If you booked directly with the airline, this flight would cost $3,262!

EK premium economy JFK DXB
Image Credit: Emirates

As you can see, you can score savings of at least $100 on premium economy flights using the International Airline Program. However, in our experience, more savings are possible, depending on factors such as your travel dates.

Business Class Discounts

Business class bookings also get a decent discount through the International Airline Program.

Our first search was for a flight from JFK to London Gatwick (LGW), a nonstop flight on Delta. We found a flight via the International Airline Program for $2,648.

JFK LWG DL IAP deal
Image Credit: American Express

The same ticket is $2,753 on Delta.com, giving you a discount of $87 (or 3.18%) when you use IAP.

Delta IAP 1
Image Credit: Delta.com

For our Asia search, we looked for a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Bangkok (BKK). Business class flights to Asia are rarely cheap, and the most economical flight on this route would cost more than $4,700 on Asiana Airlines.

Asiana flight deal
Image Credit: Asiana Airlines

With the International Airline Program, that price drops to just $4,506. This comes out to an excellent savings of 5.3%, which is certainly nothing to scoff at — especially on an already pricey ticket.

Asiana IAP deal 1

Finally, for our Middle East search, we searched for a flight from LAX to DXB on Emirates business class.

For this example, let’s look at the pricing for a flight eligible for the International Airline Program and the options you’d see if you didn’t have a premium card.

The original cost for this flight is a whopping $7,500.

EK non IAP deal
Image Credit: American Express

But by booking through the International Airline Program, you can find this flight for nearly 10% cheaper — a savings of $701!

EK IAP flight
Image Credit: American Express

Like premium economy bookings, the amount you’ll save on business class bookings depends on the route you’d like to book. While you may not save as much as premium economy bookings, any savings is still a hefty discount that can’t be found elsewhere.

First Class Discounts

International first class is almost never cheap, with tickets to Europe usually topping $10,000 round-trip. However, you can find a pretty hefty discount if you book through the International Airline Program.

Here’s a look at how much you can save when booking tickets to Europe, Asia, or the Middle East.

Starting with Europe, we searched for tickets from EWR to Frankfurt (FRA). We found a nonstop, first class ticket on Lufthansa for $5,166 through the International Airline Program.

LH IAP
Image Credit: American Express

This same ticket was $7,550 booked through Google Flights, giving us a whopping discount of $2,384 or 32% through American Express. This savings alone more than cover your Amex Platinum card’s annual fee and can even get you another (cheap) business class ticket virtually anywhere in the U.S.

LH flight EWR FRA 1
Image Credit: Lufthansa

Further, first class flights to Asia also see a nice discount with the International Airline Program. We looked for flights from Chicago (ORD) to Hong Kong (HKG) and found a one-stop option on SWISS for $8,655 through the program.

Swiss ORD HKG IAP
Image Credit: American Express

This ticket is nearly $10,000 without the discount, so you’d save $1,331 or 13.3% by booking through the International Airline Program.

Screenshot 2024 01 17 at 6.30.30 PM
Image Credit: SWISS.com

Finally, for the Middle East portion of this section, we looked for a first class ticket from JFK to DXB. Booking this ticket directly with Emirates would cost $21,963.

EK first flight JFK DXB 1
Image Credit: Emirates

We found a nonstop, round-trip flight on Emirates for $18,424 through the International Airline Program. Compared to the direct booking’s $21,963 cost, you’d get a massive $3,539 or 16.1% discount with the portal.

IAP EK first class 1
Image Credit: American Express

In the end, you’d save at least a couple hundred dollars on first class flights when booking through the International Airline Program, though you could save thousands. Just note that while this number sounds great on paper, you’d still pay well over $5,000 for a round-trip international first class ticket to most places worldwide.

However, if you’re going to make these purchases anyway, definitely use the portal to save a pretty penny.

How To Use the International Airline Program

Until a few years ago, all International Airline Program bookings had to be made over the phone. Not only did this take longer than booking through the AmexTravel.com portal, it also subjected all bookings to a $39 phone booking fee.

Thankfully, this is no longer the case because American Express has integrated the International Airline Program into AmexTravel.com. This makes utilizing the International Airline Program a lot more efficient and cheaper than it once was.

Here’s how to book a flight:

Step 1: International Airline Program Website

Navigate to the International Airline Program website and sign into your American Express account by clicking the Log In button at the upper right corner of the screen.

IAP homepage
Image Credit: American Express

Step 2: Search for Flights

Look toward the center of the International Airline Program screen for the flight search box. In this box, type in your origin, destination, dates of travel, number of passengers, and class of service. Then click the Search button to the right of the box.

IAP flight availability
Image Credit: American Express

Step 3: Select Your Flight

Look through the search results and find the flight you’d like to book. All flights with discounted fares are highlighted by a blue box that states that the fare is a benefit of the International Airline Program. Note that flights without the discount will show here, too.

Select your flight of choice by clicking the Select button. You’ll be prompted to select a return ticket if searching for a round-trip ticket.

IAP booking page 2
Image Credit: American Express

Step 4: Confirm Booking

The site will now present your final itinerary. Make sure all looks good and click the Continue Booking button. You’ll be prompted to enter all passengers’ information. As discussed earlier, the primary cardholder must be traveling with the group to get International Airline Program rates on tickets. Enter all the necessary information and move on to the next step.

Hot Tip:

Make sure to enter each passenger’s frequent flyer number at the bottom of the passenger information screen so you (and your travel companions) earn valuable flight miles for the ticket you’re booking.

Step 5: Select Seats and Insurance

Now you can select seats by clicking the Select Seats button at the center of the screen. You can also add travel insurance using the Traveler Insurance selection box at the center of the page. Once you’ve selected everything you want, click the Save & Continue button at the bottom of the screen to move to the next step.

Always double-check the travel insurance that’s complimentary with your Amex Platinum card or Amex Business Platinum card before buying more coverage.

JFK LHR flight info 1
Image Credit: American Express

Step 6: Book!

We’re almost done! From this last screen, you can choose if you’d like to pay for your flight with points, your Amex Platinum card, or a mix of the 2.

If possible, pay cash, as you only get 1 cent per point (or 1.35 with the Amex Business Platinum card) in value when paying with points. Pick how you’d like to pay and click the Book Flight button at the bottom of the screen to book your ticket.

And that’s it — your discounted premium ticket is booked! American Express will email you a confirmation shortly after your booking is completed.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that the International Airline Program can help you save some serious money on premium air travel. Even if you’re not in the market for premium airfare, searching for a premium economy ticket through the Amex portal is a great idea.

The International Airline Program frequently reduces the cost of premium economy tickets to economy levels, especially when traveling to Europe.

This benefit especially benefits businesses that book premium airfare for employees and contractors. Saving 10% or more on all airline tickets can make a serious dent in your bottom line, so don’t miss out on the Amex Business Platinum card if you think your business can take advantage of the discount.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use another card to pay for my International Airline Program flights?

No, you must use your Amex Platinum card, Amex Business Platinum card, or Membership Rewards points to pay for your flight. You can’t use other credit cards.

Will I earn 5 points per dollar on my Amex Platinum card when booking through the International Airline Program?

Yes! Those with the Amex Platinum card or Amex Business Platinum card earn 5 points per dollar on flights booked through the International Airline Program.

Can I book tickets departing from outside the U.S. and Canada with the International Airline Program?

No, only flights departing from the U.S. or select Canadian gateways are eligible for International Airline Program fares.

Do United Airlines and American Airlines participate in the International Airline Program?

No, the only U.S.-based carrier that participates in the International Airline Program is Delta Air Lines.

Are International Airline Program fares the same as Membership Rewards Insider fares?

No, Membership Rewards Insider fares generally provide less of a discount and can be booked by anyone that has a Membership Rewards-earning credit card.

However, we’ve seen Membership Rewards Insider fares for American Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, and other airlines that don’t participate in the International Airline Program. Additionally, some economy fares are eligible for Membership Rewards Insider pricing.

Note that you’ll see Membership Rewards Insider fares listed alongside standard and International Airline Program fares, so you can be sure that you’re always getting the best deal on paid premium airfare.

Are all premium tickets operated by participating carriers eligible for an International Airline Program discount?

No, not all tickets are eligible for International Airline Program pricing. You’ll see all eligible tickets when performing a search on the International Airline Program website.

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About Andrew Kunesh

Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City.

He’s a lifelong traveler and took his first solo trip to San Francisco at the age of 16. Fast forward a few years, and Andrew now travels just over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew formerly worked for The Points Guy and is now Senior Money Editor at CNN Underscored.

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