If you're booking international first, business, or premium economy tickets, this program is key to saving a ton of money when booking through the Amex Travel portal with your Amex Platinum Card. Yet somehow this benefit has flown under the radar.
Let's walk through what the Amex International Airline program is and how to use it to save on your next premium cabin flight.
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What is the Amex International Airline Program?
The Amex International Airline Program (IAP) is an exclusive benefit available to both Platinum and Business Platinum cardholders that allows you to get exclusive savings on select airlines when you book your airfare through the American Express travel portal. It is only valid for international itineraries booked in first class, business class, and premium economy – so there are no additional savings here when flying economy.
American Express claims that the average savings are $150 on premium economy, $300 in business class, and $600 on international first-class round trip fares. In practice, we've seen these numbers vary depending on the routing, fare class, and the airline.
The discount will only apply on flights originating in the U.S., and from select Canadian airports. Additionally, Amex will allow you to apply the international airline program discount on up to eight tickets booked on the same flight.
What Airlines Participate in the Amex International Airline Program?
The Amex International Airline Program discount is valid for premium cabin international itineraries on the following 26 airlines:
- Air China
- Air France
- Air New Zealand
- All Nippon Airways (ANA)
- Asiana Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- British Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- China Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
- Japan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- South African Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
How to Book Tickets with the Amex International Airline Program
Saving up to $600 (or more) on a typical business class ticket is nothing to sneeze at. But IAP really shines when you can use it to save even more on a premium cabin deal. Here's an example.
We recently sent a round-trip business class fare from New York City (JFK) to Kyiv, Ukraine (KBP) on Qatar Airways to our Thrifty Traveler Premium members. Those flights in Qatar Airways' amazing Qsuites are typically $3,000 or more – but they were bookable for just $1,664.
But if you have either the Platinum Card or the Business Platinum Card, the deal gets even better with the International Airline Program. All you have to do is head to amextravel.com and log into your American Express account. Logging in is key, as the discounts will not display if you aren't logged in.
From here, you can search for the same itinerary you found via Google Flights – or in your inbox. As long as the airline participates in the program, you will see the discount automatically applied and a turquoise-colored banner above the itinerary indicating the fare is eligible for the international airline program discount.
Amex also allows you to call and book these international airline program fares with a phone agent. However, they will charge you a $39 service fee per ticket, so booking online makes much more sense.
In this case, the Amex International Airline Program knocks just $62 off of the price. But we've seen it drop the cost by $500 or more.
As a bonus, you'll earn miles booking this flight – whether you decide to pay cash or use your American Express Membership Rewards points. If you pay with your personal Platinum card, you'll also earn 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on the flight – a big reason we think it is the absolute best card for booking airfare.
So in this example, if you paid with your personal Platinum card, you would earn 8,010 Amex Membership Rewards points (5x points per dollar x $1,602) plus the miles you would earn on Qatar – or with whichever partner you decide to credit your mileage earning.
Thrifty Tip: Use wheretocredit.com to decide on the best airline to credit your mileage from flights.
Stack with the Business Platinum 35% Back Points Rebate
If you hold the Business Platinum card, the savings from the Amex IAP can be even sweeter.
That's because if you pay for any business or first class flight, or an economy flight on your selected airline with your Membership Rewards points, you'll receive a 35% points rebate on that booking. Amex allows you to use this novel rebate to earn up to 500,000 Membership Rewards points back each year.
So in our example above, we would normally need 160,195 Membership Rewards points to cover the cost of this business class fare. But with the Business Platinum card, you'll get 35% of those points back as a rebate within six to eight weeks.
After getting roughly 56,000 Membership Rewards points back, the exact same booking costs just 104,000 or so points.
Read our guide on using the 35% rebate on the Business Platinum Card.
If you hold either the Platinum or Business Platinum Card from American Express, the Amex International Airline program can save you a ton of cash (or points!) on a premium cabin international booking. Even if you only use it once or twice, those savings can easily offset the high annual fee on each card.
This is the kind of benefit that hammers home why we always suggest doing the math before ruling out cards with large annual fees.