American Express Travel Forum: New Air Benefits, New Agent Tools

Claire Bennett, EVP of American Express Travel, at the General Session
Claire Bennett, EVP of American Express Travel, at the General Session

We’re live at this year’s American Express Travel Forum, which will run through October 10 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Formerly the Representative Network Forum, this year’s event has drawn more than 1,000 attendees from across American Express’ U.S. and International Travel Representative Networks, American Express Travel International, American Express Travel U.S., and American Express Online, and at the opening General Session Claire Bennett, EVP of American Express Travel, shared the company’s latest plans for new tools and processes aimed at helping all of those units work together.

“The customer thinks about us as American Express Travel,” says Bennett. “They don’t think about us as the rep network, as the online group, as the U.S. business, as the international business. They see that logo and assume that we’re all talking to each other.”

Based on research conducted by American Express, the company’s customers want three things from their travel experience, Bennett says: the feeling that they’re getting value from the relationship, a sense of personalization, and an experience that’s easy to work with. 

“Value doesn’t necessarily mean lowest price, it means that I got something from you that is worth it to me,” Bennett says. 

New Member Benefits

Leading the company’s plans is a major new benefit for American Express members: 5X points on all air bookings for American Express Platinum Card members. That includes bookings from the American Express Network, from the American Express website, from the American Express group of partners and from the company’s airline partners. 

“The airline starts the whole travel scenario,” Bennett says. “These are the kinds of things we’re launching to make sure customers understand the value of American Express.”

American Express is also working to showcase and quantify the value of the company’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program, so that customers can easily see how much booking at a Fine Hotels and Resorts property is worth to them. Also soon to come are new air benefits. 

On the personalization side, American Express launched personalized travel benefits for Gold Card members last year. On Facebook Messenger, the company has launched a new feature that will alert members who book through American Express to lounges they can take advantage of nearby. Plans call for more features to be added to the Facebook Messenger function, as well. 

Other new features on the horizon include text, click to chat, and other multi-channel communications abilities. “We want to be agnostic as to channel,” Bennett says. “We want to be wherever the card member is.”

In terms of inspiring travel experiences, American Express is focusing on access to exclusive experiences, local insights and new experiences. The company is reopening admission to its Travel Insiders program, which offers access to customized itineraries and curated recommendations from American Express’ destination experts – a model similar to the way Netflix works to uncover other programming a customer might like, Bennett says. 

A rough timeline of features rolling out over the next year. 

New Technology Tools

In-house, American Express is working on a series of new technology tools for its travel agents. Foremost among these is a new Knowledge Management System that will aim to bring together insights and curation from across the entire company to share with travel agents. That system is slated to launch  next year.

In terms of education and training, American Express is opening up its Supplier Learning Academy to its representative network. The Supplier Learning Academy brings together curated product information from American Express supplier partners that American Express travel agents will now be able to access. 

“As a team, we’ll be made that much stronger by looking at the same type of information,” Bennett says. 

Stay tuned to for the latest news, trends and updates from the American Express Travel Forum.