Know Your Benefits: Amex Platinum Medical Evacuation Claim on Award Ticket Saves $275,000

Reader Arthur‘s parents were in Singapore on an award trip he helped to book using Membership Rewards points transferred to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer. Taxes were paid with his father’s American Express Platinum card.

They flew Atlanta – New York JFK on a Delta economy award and then New York JFK – Frankfurt – Singapore in Singapore Suites.

During the trip Arthur’s father had a heart attack. They were on a 3 day stopover before continuing to Bali but they never made that portion of the trip. While doing a food tour with friends he had a heart attack. Fortunately one of the friends was an OB/GYN who performed CPR on him within one minute. Arthur relays, “[w]ith Singapore traffic it took 15 minutes to get to the emergency room where they defibrillated him and restarted his heart.” His father’s brain was injured from lack of oxygen during the time enroute to Raffles Hospital.

It was a stressful time for Arthur’s family already with a new baby in the house just days old. But he was on top of his benefits, and medical evac coverage made a huge difference for his family.

He verified that his father’s American Express Platinum card had medical evacuation coverage that applied even on an award ticket since the taxes and fees for the award were paid with the card.
(AIG asked for confirmation that the positioning flights to and from New York were also paid for with the Platinum American Express card — $5.60 security taxes — though it’s not clear this would have been required to honor the claim.)

His father was flown from Singapore to Atlanta on a specially outfitted Gulfstream 100 which made the journey in 25 hours after 4 refuel and crew change stops. He had a doctor, paramedic, respiratory technician, and his wife on-board.


Gulfstream Business Jet, Copyright nort / 123RF Stock Photo

Arthur shares the following:

The American Express Platinum evacuation benefit was incredible. His flight home would have cost $275,000 otherwise.

He had a medically outfitted Gulfstream 100 come from Toronto with a Doctor, Paramedic, and Respiratory Technician. They had a hard time getting landing rights in Singapore so for a while it looked like they were going to take him by ambulance to Johor Bahru Malaysia to fly out. At the last minute they got the landing rights.

So they flew him home Singapore – Taipei – Sapporo – Anchorage – Calgary – Atlanta Peachtree Dekalb (PDK). The pilots changed a couple times but it was the same medical crew for the entire 25 hour flight + ambulance time.

My mom got to ride with him too although the Gulfstream G100 was at capacity so it was an uncomfortable journey. They sedated dad and gave him morphine for the trip home so he was zonked out the whole time.

I came to Atlanta for his arrival and found the Ambulance driver waiting on the lane at PDK. He allowed me to get in the back of the ambulance with my sister and drive out on the tarmac to pick him up. We had to wait for 2 drive-up customs guys to clear the plane (they didn’t use the US customs border people in Calgary I guess) and then they transferred him to the ambulance to the hospital.

It was great to see him in one piece and to see my mom after what has been a traumatic experience for her.

I notice Chase has the same benefit capped at $100k on the Sapphire Reserve. Amex Plat had no cap thankfully!!!

The benefit was provided through AIG, which has a 24/7 command center to coordinate emergency logistics. Arthur explains,

During each shift an AIG case worker had the case and was the point person until hand-off to the next person on the next shift. So we had a specific person to speak to at the contact center whenever we called which was nice.


Arthur’s Father Being Transferred from Gulfstream to Ambulance at Atlanta Peachtree-Dekalb Airport

Arthur’s father is now receiving specialized care at the Shepard Brain Injury Center in Atlanta where he receives “Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Memory Therapy, and “Hobby” Therapy each day” and anticipates being released to home recovery in a month. The prognosis over the next six months is extremely good.

I’m always torn over what card to use to pay for trips, is it better to earn 5 points per dollar on the American Express Platinum but without trip or baggage delay coverage, or earn 3 points per dollar with those benefits? But those benefits are small and over the course of a year I value the extra 2 points more.

It’s incredibly rare to need medical transport — from the other side of the world — but when you do this is huge. It’s a great benefit, and most people wouldn’t even realize they had it, especially at such a stressful time.

If something goes medically wrong on a trip, it’s a good idea to reach out to the American Express Premium Global Assist line right away to get the ball rolling, just in case.

Meanwhile, Delta waived the award redeposit for the New York JFK – Atlanta return award ticket. And Aeroplan eventually refunded miles and taxes for the Asiana first class Bali – Bangkok – Seoul – New York JFK return although this took “some back and forth” emphasizing that a mere waived fee for a date change may not help if Arthur’s father had died. The Grand Hyatt Bali provided full refund for the 7 night stay they weren’t able to take despite being inside the hotel’s cancellation window as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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