AMEX International Airline Program Discounts Worth It?

AMEX International Airline Program Discounts Worth It?

The AMEX International Airline Program Discounts started back in 2017, when the program switched from a “free” companion ticket (I put free in quotes, since the paid fare of the first passenger was typically much higher than the fare available directly through the airline) to one that provided modest discounts when booking first class, business class and premium economy tickets. More recently, it's even possible to search and reserve the AMEX International Airline Program fares online, which is handy for quickly checking fares against other options, including award tickets, without having to call AMEX.

Keep in mind there's a $39 per ticket fee if you call AMEX Travel to book instead of booking online, unless you hold an AMEX Centurion card, in which case the fee is waived.

AMEX International Airline Program Airlines

There are 25 participating airlines, so a good amount of choice when it comes to carriers:

  • AeroMexico
  • Air China
  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • Alitalia
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • British Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • China Airlines
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines (JAL)
  • KLM
  • LATAM
  • Lufthansa
  • Qantas
  • Qatar
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • SWISS
  • Virgin Atlantic

How Much are the Discounts with the International Airline Program?

AMEX advertises average savings of $600 for first class, $300 for business class and $150 for premium economy roundtrip tickets, although caveats this noting that actual savings vary by airline, class of service and ticket price. Here are a couple examples:

Business Class JFK to Paris in October 2019

Here are the fares for sample dates of October 16-23, on AMEX Travel, without logging in:

AMEX Travel Fares for NYC-Paris Business Class Without IAP Discount

And here are the AMEX International Airline Program discounted rates. With the IAP discount, you'd save $313 on Iberia, $318 on Delta, and $464 on American Airlines, for example.

NYC to Paris Business Class with AMEX International Airline Program Discount

Emirates First Class JFK to Milan MXP in October 2019

A much more impressive example is with Emirates First Class. This is also a very relevant example for clients who want to travel first class to Europe and don't want to fly British Airways First, which is a rather underwhelming international first class product.

As you can see, the regular AMEX Travel fare for Oct. 16-23 in Emirates First Class for JFK-MXP-JFK is $6339, which is actually already better than the fare on Emirates' site, of

Unfortunately Emirates First Class on the JFK-Milan nonstop can be extremely difficult to find any award availability for even for one person, let alone two, so AMEX's IAP can be a good alternative.

FAQ

Are All Tickets Booked with the International Airline Program Non-Refundable?

It is possible to reserve refundable fares, but as always, refundable fares are significantly higher than non-refundable fares.

Do the Tickets Have to Be Paid for with an AMEX Platinum or AMEX Centurion Card?

Yes, the tickets must be paid in full with the cardmember's AMEX Platinum, AMEX Business Platinum or AMEX Centurion card. Because it's not possible to use a Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred card to pay, which would include some travel cancellation and travel interruption insurance, it's important to separately purchase travel insurance protection.

Do Tickets Have to Be Roundtrip or Can They Be One Way?

Most tickets purchased through the ticket must be roundtrip, but some one way fares may be eligible, if they originate in the U.S. or select Canadian gateway cities. One way tickets that originate outside the U.S./Canada are not eligible.

How Do I Change a Ticket Booked with the AMEX International Airline Program?

If you need to change a ticket, you may be able to modify it at amextravel.com, but if you can't, you'll need to call AMEX Travel at 800-525-3355. There is a $39 non-refundable fee payable to AMEX, in addition to the amount charged by the airline (the change fee and any fare difference, if the ticket can be changed). Note that changes need to be made through AMEX Travel, you can't make them directly with the airline because the ticket is booked through AMEX.

The Verdict

If you have an AMEX Platinum or AMEX Centurion card, it's worth at least checking the International Airline Program discount, if you're booking a first class, business class or premium economy international ticket originating from the U.S. or Canada.

On the face of it, it's also attractive to earn 5X Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on the tickets; the problem is that you won't have any included trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance when booking this way, because neither the AMEX Platinum nor AMEX Centurion cards include trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance.

If you've reserved using AMEX International Airline Program discounts for first class or business class tickets, what was the discount over the airline's own price?

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