Amex Travel Services: Plain Dumb?

I’ve been working to explore the feature set of my American Express Platinum Charge Card, which I finally acquired a couple of months back after all they threw in INR 40,000 worth of Taj Vouchers along with the other goodies.

One of the things I’ve been looking forward to using is their Travel Services, which is basically a travel agent on the phone. Now, being American Express and all that, you’d expect that the Travel Counsellors, as they are called, would do a thorough job of researching the properties and flights before they’d send you a quote. My expectation of an offline travel agent, at least some of the good ones I work with, is that they don’t just want to get your business and commissions off that business. They come back and tell you where is the best rate available, and have sometimes booked tickets for me off the Internet or advised me to do reservations off the Internet.

In the past week itself, I’ve given 3 assignments to the travel services desk, and not one of them have been to my liking, the way they came back. Let me share these instances:

Firstly, I am heading to one of my favourite resorts in Goa, the Park Hyatt Goa later this year. I already had some rooms booked, and I needed some more after the size of the travel party increased. So I thought I’d ask Amex to take care of this round because of the Fine Hotels & Resorts tie-up. Guess what, they could only see suites at the property. I called the property directly and could get the rooms booked directly. Amex never even picked up the phone to talk to the hotel but just came back to me with the rates they saw.

Next, I’d asked them to figure out flights for 15 people and they got back to me with standard rates. In the meanwhile, I asked them to check on a group rate, however the rate quoted only was higher than the regular rate. Not once did they figure there was a sale in the midst of this request being open. Not once did they indicate prices dropping for a short window which I could use. Even if it was not on the entire size of the travel party.

Just last night, I came up with another request on an upcoming business trip. American Express’s Travel Counsellor had told me the possibility of getting a good discount on my fare was better on an international itinerary because they had a tie-up with Jet Airways amongst other vendors. However, the prices they sent me were worse off than those available on the website of the airline itself. On the same request, I’d asked them to book my hotel as well. Guess what do they do? They send me a rate which is 50$ higher than the lowest rate available on the website, that too ex-taxes!!

I’ve heard the quality of Travel Services has gone bad, but this is plain dumb. If I need a cut-copy-paste from the GDS/Internet guy, I think I’d be way better at this stuff. Why would anyone go to Amex’s Travel Desk then?

What have been your experiences with Amex Platinum Travel in India or abroad?

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About Ajay Awtaney

Ajay is a financial services pro, working to bring order to the chaos of the financial industry on an everyday basis! Beyond that, he dons the hat of India's favourite frequent traveller, trying to help people elevate their travel experience via tips and tricks they never knew before, or introduce them to the world of miles and points. Armed with an MBA from MDI Gurgaon and graduate degree in computer science from the University of Delhi, Ajay brings a systematic and objective approach on the table for his audience in dissecting travel and loyalty programs in India and around the world, and how to benefit from them. Ajay has been quoted in various reputed traditional and online media including The Hindustan Times, Inside Flyer, Bloomberg, DNA India, Conde Nast Traveller, The Telegraph, Mumbai Mirror, Mint, MoneyLife and The USA Today.

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Comments

  1. My experience has been no better either with them if not worse. Many a resorts and hotels though being five star are not there in their list of offering I realise. .. after kingfisher card went to dogs.. I havent found anything worthwhile with them including plat reserve… just waiting amd hoping it will only get better…

  2. I too have had similar bad experiences with the Amex travel services. This card had already downgradde the Marco Polo status and ITC Culinary Plus renewal is also on hold currently. Further, their tie ups with various partners (lodging & airline)have been coming in April / May for the last 2 years and hence you do not get a full year of benefits.

  3. I contacted AMEX Platinum in US last week on behalf of a cardholder friend. Their airfare quotes were higher than I found on the web. They had a significant discount at an ultra-luxury hotel in Europe but could not book the alternate (much cheaper and more highly rated) property—which my friend ultimately selected.

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