American Express has long offered an International Airline Program with dubious value. Basically you could purchase one full-fare, refundable business or first class international ticket and get the second one for just the taxes and fees. The problem is that many full-fare tickets are significantly more expensive than the discounted fares most leisure travelers purchase. Now, a new process simply applies a discount to the lowest fares available so everyone can benefit. (HT to One Mile at a Time)
Instead of purchasing a full-fare ticket, you can purchase ordinary discounted tickets in premium cabins and just get a discount off that ordinary price. This discount is variable, but besides that a significant improvement is that you can purchase between 1 and 8 tickets — you no longer have to be a couple to use this perk. Most other restrictions remain in place:
- You must have an American Express Platinum or Centurion Card, call American Express to purchase by phone (800-525-3355), and pay a $39 booking fee.
- You must travel on a participating carrier (see the graphic below) and depart from the U.S. or Canada.
- You must travel in premium economy, business or first class — because if you have a Platinum Card they must assume you aren’t interested in cattle class. 😉
My dad took advantage of the original International Airline Program for a trip to New Zealand a couple of years ago, and it worked well enough. His opinion was that he didn’t save any money, but he did gain from the flexibility of being able to change a fully refundable fare. It was still possible to find some good values, but I think in most cases the original program usually made sense if, say, your employer was buying you a last-minute ticket for work and you wanted to bring the spouse along for cheap.
I’m glad to see the new program roll out with much less restrictive rules. Actual discounts can vary, and as Ben point out sometimes it’s a few dollars while other times it can be hundreds. It seems like you should expect somewhere between 5-10% off. I think it remains a hassle to call in to book these fares directly. The fact that Amex is offering a discount while also charging a booking fee is puzzling, too.