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A couple of weeks ago, a TPG staffer contacted his Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN concierge to inquire about the cost of a business-class ticket between Las Vegas (LAS) and New York (JFK) on American Airlines. When he’d looked at the fare online, he saw the price was exorbitant — upward of $1,600 to go from LAS to JFK via Los Angeles (LAX). Not only that, but the flight from LAS to LAX was in economy and the transcon leg was in business.
Planning to use the 50% airline bonus when using Pay with Points — effectively redeeming at a value of 2 cents per points — he called the concierge to book. Once on the phone, his concierge told him that there was a cheaper option available on American on the same route — and both legs would be in first class. Puzzled, he inquired why he couldn’t see that fare on AA’s website.
The concierge then told him that not too long ago, Amex and American Airlines had formed a partnership that allowed Amex Travel agents to offer discounted fares on select routes. So, we had to investigate further, and what we found was quite shocking — and great news for Amex cardholders with access to a concierge.
When we reached out to Amex to confirm the details of this new agreement, we received the following statement:
At the end of September, American Express announced a preferred partnership with American Airlines and their alliance partners, British Airways, Japan Airlines, Finnair and Iberia. With this partnership, all U.S. travel counselors and Relationship Managers now have access to the American Airlines’ SalesLink tool to assist you in promoting sales on American Airlines and their alliance partners. In addition, travel counselors and Relationship Managers have access to AA Flex Funds account where they can book Preferred Seats and access other waivers. Our partnership enable us to provide more value and better experiences for our Card Members by offering preferred pricing, dedicated sales support, agent incentives, servicing funds and more.
While this wasn’t the detailed response we were hoping for, it did address that Amex and AA had indeed signed a partnership. In addition, the language indicated that card members could get access to “preferred pricing,” among other benefits.
We wanted to look into just how significant these discounts can be. And after comparing both domestic and international one-way and round-trip itineraries, we discovered that there isn’t a cut-and-dried answer. In fact, the numbers ranged from exactly the same price on AA’s site as those offered by Amex to savings of more than a couple thousand dollars and upward of 75% off.
Here are a few examples of the savings we found, in no particular order:
1. New York (JFK) to London (LHR) One-Way in Business Class:
Booking directly on American Airlines’ site, this ticket would have cost $7,952:
When booking this same itinerary through an Amex concierge, it came out to $2,049:
That’s right, the Amex concierge was able to come up with a savings or more than $5,000 — that’s 74% off! To begin with, a nearly $8,000 one-way ticket to Europe is a bit ridiculous, but the Amex savings could prove to make this a much more manageable expense.
2. New York (JFK) to London (LHR) Round-Trip in Business Class:
Booking directly on American Airlines’ site, this round-trip ticket would have cost $7,172:
Booking through Amex, this same ticket would cost $4,337:
In all, this round-trip itinerary cost almost $3,000 less by booking with the Amex concierge — a savings of around 40%.
3. Las Vegas (LAS) to New York (JFK) via Los Angeles (LAX) One-Way in First Class:
When booking through AA, this ticket came out to $1,891:
However, the Amex concierge was able to offer the same ticket for just $672:
For a one-way transcon ticket in first class, $672 is extremely reasonable. Especially when compared to the $1,891 fare that AA was offering when booking direct — the concierge was offering a savings of about 64%. (Note that this was a Y-Up fare, so if the equipment was downsized, you would have run the risk of being downgraded to coach.)
4. Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK) Round-Trip in Business Class (I)
Booking directly on American Airlines’ site, this ticket would have cost $1,297:
However, when booking through the Amex concierge, this same ticket came out to just about the same amount — $1,296.
This is the only comparison example we tried that came out to be around the same price when booked on either the AA site or through the Amex concierge. As you can tell, it’s probably best to call Amex to see if your itinerary is eligible for a cheaper fare.
Coupling the Cheaper Fare With a Card Bonus
The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN can offer you an even greater value on some of these savings. The card offers you 50% of your points back when you redeem your Membership Rewards points for an eligible fare. Effectively, when you use Pay with Points, you can get a value of 2 cents per point. Stay tuned for a full review of how the enhanced Pay with Points option with the Business Platinum Card has saved TPG money and points.
Here’s an example of when this would come into play using one of the examples from above — specifically, example No. 3, a one-way ticket LAS-LAX-JFK. With the discounted fare offered by the Amex concierge of $672, the ticket would require just 33,600 Membership Rewards points when using Pay with Points. In addition, because Pay with Points redemptions are booked as revenue tickets, you’ll earn both redeemable and elite-qualifying miles — a win-win situation.
Say, for example, you didn’t want to pay cash and instead have loads of Membership Rewards to spend. This could be a great use of those. At the SAAver level (assuming there’s availability), you could redeem 50,000 American Airlines miles for this ticket — in all, giving you some great value out of your Membership Rewards. Of course, paying cash for the ticket would also be a good option.
This deal could become even more valuable if you pay for the ticket with your Amex Platinum to get 5x points on airfare booked through Amex Travel. So, if you were to buy the round-trip ticket between New York and London in example No. 2 for $4,337, you’d not only be walking away with a cheaper fare, but also 21,685 Membership Rewards points — worth $412 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.
Ultimately, this new partnership between Amex and American Airlines could prove to be a real game-changer. The ability to access less expensive tickets can open up new options for Amex cardholders. If you’re looking to fly American Airlines in the future and have access to the Amex concierge, consider calling before pressing the “Pay Now” button on AA’s site.