American Express Offers $200 Airline Credit

But can you use it on in-flight booze?

Something very interesting occurred on a flight I took from Boston to Miami on New Year’s Eve.  A passenger seated towards the front of the aircraft attempted to purchase “$150 worth of booze.”  After I overheard the flight attendants discussing the legality of the request, I began to wonder why anyone would do something so insane.  Finally, I heard a flight attendant say two words that made the entire request clear, “American Express.”


With alcohol and other premium beverages often being marked up a great deal in-flight, why would anyone want to drop $150 on in-flight booze?  Great question!  Until I heard the two words “American” and “Express”, that answer to that question alluded me.  So, why did the phrase “American Express” answer my question?  Great question!  Here’s why.

The American Express Platinum card is one hell of a charge card.  Except for the $450 annual fee, everything about the card is fantastic.  The best part of the Platinum card is probably the travel perks.  Lounge access, exclusive access to hotel amenities, using points directly for airfare, 5x points on airfare, $200 airline credit, and more are all part of that annual fee.  What’s pivotal in understanding why this passenger tried to buy $150 of overpriced liquor is knowing what this $200 airline credit entails.

American Express Platinum Card (Image: American Express)

American Express Platinum Card (Image: American Express)

American Express offers Platinum cardholders and authorized users a cumulative annual airline specific travel statement credit of $200.  Cardholders must first select an airline of their choice and then when they use their Platinum card for miscellaneous purchases on that airline, think seat assignments and baggage fees, American Express posts a statement credit up to $200.  I’m pretty sure that I, out of three cardholders on our family account, exhausted this statement credit back in late November.  It’s a pretty neat perk.  It also explains what this passenger was doing when they ordered marked up booze.

This passenger was simply getting the most out of their American Express Platinum travel credit.  With an hour until the New Year, this passenger has the brilliant (and I truly mean that) idea to use up the rest of their travel statement credit before it reset at 12:00 AM on January 1st.  By purchasing $150 in over-priced booze, the passenger would effectively end up having American Express paying for their booze.  With an hour until the New Year, there’s nothing else the passenger could have purchased that met the requirements for what American Express covers as part of the $200 statement credit.  That’s super smart but also, super illegal.

The Outcome

Okay, so when I exited the lavatory I might have been a little nosey and interjected myself in the lively flight attendant banter.  I said something along the lines of, “I couldn’t help but overhearing what you all were talking about, I might be able to clear some things up.”  The flight attendants gave me a look and said, “Go for it.”  I simply explained why this passenger wanted to do something so outrageous and gave the passenger the benefit of the doubt.  I also interjected into the conversation that, “Taking airline booze off of the aircraft is illegal.”  That’s when another flight attendant said, “I know, that’s why I can’t let the passenger do it.”  That was the extent of the conversation so I don’t know if this passenger actually managed to persuade the flight attendants into letting him break a federal law.

Can you use your $200 statement credit all on in-flight alcohol?

Can you use your $200 statement credit all on in-flight alcohol?

Just to clarify, this is against FAA regulation and therefore in violation of federal law.  Airlines and the FAA are both very strict about bringing on and taking off liquor to/from a commercial flight.  Everyone knows (well, most people) that you can’t bring your own alcohol onboard but the same goes for taking alcohol off.  A commercial aircraft isn’t a 7/11 or Walgreens.  When you dine at a nice restaurant, you wouldn’t buy a few bottles of wine and bring them home.  Of course, bringing wine home from a restaurant isn’t illegal, bringing wine off of a plane is.  Just to reiterate, I’m not defending this FAA regulation I’m simply stating that it exists and that’s why, unless you have a clueless crew, this awesome travel credit loophole won’t work.


When I connected the dots and discovered why a passenger would do something like this I was actually quite impressed.  “Why didn’t I think of this.”  I really love those champagne gummies (alcohol-free of course) American Airlines serves on domestic flights, I could easily pack 10 packs of those gummies in my carry-on!  Still, it does raise some legality issues and ethics issues.  Flight attendants aren’t there to play liquor store clerk.  Still, if the crew on this flight would have overlooked the legality and said, “To hell with it, here’s some booze”, I have little doubt in my mind that American Express wouldn’t have looked twice and covered the expense.  So, in short, this is a truly fantastic use of the Platinum card’s $200 airline statement credit, however, it just so happens to be in violation of FAA regulations.  What a shame!

What do you think about this travel hack? Would you have tried to buy onboard booze to get the most out of your travel statement credit?

Oh, and Happy New Year!