Despite their recently increased annual fees, these two cards come with a plethora of benefits, which can easily offset the cost of holding the cards year after year.
One of these benefits is the Amex Platinum International Airline Program, which is available exclusively to holders of the aforementioned cards.
In This Post
- What Is the Amex Platinum International Airline Program?
- How to Book Flights with the Amex Platinum International Airline Program
- Is the Amex Platinum International Airline Program a Good Deal?
What Is the Amex Platinum International Airline Program?
The Amex Platinum International Airline Program offers discounted fares on select airlines when booked through Amex Travel, either online or over the phone.
The benefit is available to both primary and supplementary cardholders of the Canadian-issued American Express Platinum Card and the Business Platinum Card from Ameriacn Express, as well as up to seven additional passengers travelling on the same reservation.
Eligible fares include First Class, business class, and premium economy – economy fares aren’t eligible for the program.
The following airlines are included under the International Airline Program available on the Canadian-issued cards:
- Air Canada
- Air France
- Air New Zealand
- Austrian Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
- Japan Airlines
- Qatar Airways
As per the terms and conditions, your flights must originate in and/or return to select Canadian airports. However, if you search routes that don’t include a Canadian city, you still may find discounted rates through the program.
Note that not all routes and tickets come with a discount, since only certain fares qualify. In fact, you might notice that sometimes the discount only appears when tickets are purchased as one-ways and not as round-trips.
The discount you’ll receive by booking through the Amex Platinum International Airline Program reflects only the base fare component of the flight, although Amex Travel displays prices inclusive of all taxes and fees.
How to Book Flights with the Amex Platinum International Airline Program
To book tickets under the Amex Platinum International Airline Program, you’ll have to either book your flight online through the Amex Travel website or over the phone at (800) 263-1616 (press 2). Make sure that you’re browsing the website of Amex Travel in Canada or calling its Canadian hotline, since Amex Travel has a separate agency for US customers.
If you opt for the phone option, you’ll be connected to the travel advisors at Amex Travel, which is a locally registered travel agency headquartered in Toronto. If you book online, your reservations will also be ticketed, sometimes manually, by the same agency.
Online, you can book up to six passengers on one itinerary, while over the phone, you can book up to eight passengers.
Whichever way you choose to book, the Amex Platinum cardholder must travel on the same itinerary, and you have to pay with your personal or business Platinum Card.
To book online, simply log into your Amex Canada account, and navigate to “Travel” under the “Menu” button. After that, select “Book Travel Online”.
Then, select the “Air” tab, and search for flights as you typically would.
Keep in mind that economy isn’t eligible for the International Airline Program, so you’ll have to select either premium economy, business class, or First Class under “Service Class”.
After you click “Search”, you’ll be brought to a list of flights. If there’s a flight that meets the requirements for the International Airline Program, it’ll be marked with a banner on top of the flight details.
You’ll also be able to see Amex Travel’s regular price with a strikethrough, and the discounted International Airline Program price underneath.
Is the Amex Platinum International Airline Program a Good Deal?
If you’re considering booking a cash flight through the International Airline Program, you’ll want to consider a few factors to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
Whether or not the Amex Platinum International Airline Program is a good deal largely depends on your usual travel spending patterns.
If you typically book premium airline seats with cash, then you may stand to benefit from the discount offered by the program.
However, keep in mind that by booking with Amex Travel, your ticket is sold by a third party. The agency must handle all changes and refunds accordingly, and it’s often less convenient to deal with an agency than directly with the airline.
Before you decide on booking with Amex Travel, it’s important to compare the pricing with the airline directly. Then, decide if the discount is significant enough to forgo the convenience of buying tickets directly with the airline.
Another consideration is that you’re forced to use your Platinum Card to book the ticket. The points you’ll earn are based on the following rates:
- 2 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases with the Amex Platinum Card
- 1.25 points per dollar spent on all purchases with the Amex Business Platinum Card
Therefore, there’s also an opportunity cost of booking with another card. For example, you may be better off using a card with a minimum spending requirement you’re working on, or an Aeroplan co-branded credit card that earns more points when booking directly with Air Canada.
Note that American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points may be redeemed against the cost of airfares, fully or partially, even if they’re booked under the International Airline Program. The value you’ll get is the standard 1 cent per point (CAD), as if you were redeeming for any other airfare.
To fully gauge whether the International Airline Program is a good deal, let’s take a look at a few real-life examples.
Emirates First Class
Based on a few searches, the discount seemingly appears on all Emirates First Class tickets, regardless if they’re booked as one-way or round-trip.
Moreover, searching for Emirates First Class flights outside Canadian cities still yields discounted fares, which appears to go against the stated terms and conditions of the program.
For example, a one-way Emirates First Class ticket from Toronto to Dubai costs $12,896 (all figures in CAD) when booked through Amex Travel. With the International Airline Program, it costs $12,192, which corresponds to $704 in savings.
If you’re booking the same route as a round-trip, the cost might jump to $19,072, while the International Airline Program reduces the cost to $18,066. This translates to savings of $1,006.
Indeed, the $704–1,006 in potential savings for Emirates First Class is significant enough for you to consider booking through the International Airline Program, as long as the price is less than what’s offered directly through Emirates or other platforms.
Air Canada Business Class
For another example, let’s take a look at a short one-way flight in Air Canada business class from Montreal to Chicago.
On Amex Travel, a flight regularly prices out at $489, while through the International Airline Program, it’s offered at $457. In this case, the International Airline Program reduces the price by a modest $32.
By comparison, the same ticket booked directly with Air Canada is actually $1 cheaper, at $456.
In this case, you’re likely better off booking directly with the airline, since the price is basically the same, and you can deal directly with the airline instead of Amex Travel in the event of any disruptions.
Again, be sure to compare the price of your desired ticket with the airline directly.
WestJet Premium Economy
Lastly, let’s look at a premium economy ticket on WestJet’s longest route from Calgary to Tokyo.
Through Amex Travel, a round-trip flight from Calgary to Tokyo costs $3,594 without any discounts. With the International Airline Program discount, the price is reduced to $3,240, which represents a savings of $354.
Meanwhile, searching for the same flights directly with WestJet yields the same price as Amex Travel’s regular rate: $3,594.
In this case, the International Airline Program has actually slashes the cost of the ticket considerably. To put this into perspective, $354 is almost half of the Amex Platinum Card’s $799 annual fee.
Here, the savings are significant enough to warrant consideration of booking through Amex Travel instead of directly through WestJet.
The Amex Platinum International Airline Program may be a useful benefit if you regularly book flights in premium cabins with cash. After all, the program may discount eligible airfares considerably, as illustrated by the examples above.
However, bookings are handled by Amex Travel, a third party, which is generally less preferable than booking with the airline itself. Furthermore, you’re forced to use your Amex Platinum Card or Business Platinum Card, which prevents you from using other cards that might have better rewards.
Therefore, before booking through the International Airline Program, make sure that the discount and rewards offset the convenience of booking with the airline directly.
In any event, if you have a Platinum Card in your wallet, you should at the very least be aware of the International Airline Program, as you may stand to benefit from reduced costs of premium fares.