There are two companies that offer airlines solutions for selling space available upgrades; Optiontown and Plusgrade. Most of the major airlines handle this function in-house, but smaller airlines rely to these two providers. Goal is obviously to extract more revenue out of business and first class seats.
Last week, I was flying from Bangkok to Hanoi on Vietnam Airlines and had booked myself in economy. The flight is short and not worth paying anything extra for short haul business class seat.
After purchasing the flight from Vietnam Airlines, I received a sales email disguised as a flight confirmation email that came from Optiontown, although it was branded as it had come from the airline.
The email offered number of options; you could purchase UTo, ESo, PFo, or FRo. These names are terrible and some engineer in Optiontown’s back room must have come up with these abbreviations. There are even more of them as you can see from the screen shot that I took from their website’s front page.
Purchasing an option to get upgraded
So, I decided to test this product and clicked the link on the email that I had received for the upgrade.
The system calculated a price of 27 euros for an optional upgrade for business class on this less than two hour flight. I would need to pay one euro sign up fee that would be non-refundable in case of upgrade of not clearing.
Chose the upgrade and got the confirmation screen.
The system then tried to offer me an empty seat option for 8 euros and waived sign up fee (I would pay for the upgrade sign up fee). Declined this one.
Paid the fee and the upgrade got wait listed.
Few hours later I received an email that the upgrade has not been successful and that they would refund the 27 euros back to my card within 5 days. The refund was processed as promised and the money returned to the card used to pay for this.
The business class was not even half full on this flight. I had one row for myself and slept the entire two hour flight.
When should you use Optiontown?
When you get upgraded to business class, you should also receive the extra luggage allowance that comes with the upgraded class. The cost of upgrade could be a lot less than the charge for extra few kilos of checked in luggage.
The price of the upgrade for this short leg was very reasonable. I could consider purchasing one for an overnight flight that would offer proper seating for sleeping,
Although the lounge access is not part of the deal with Vietnam Airlines, you should be able to access airline lounges based on the ticketed cabin of your flight.
I am not 100% sure about this, but you may get elite qualifying and redeemable mile credit for the higher class, if the airline reissues the ticket in the business class fare class.
Using Optiontown may make sense under certain circumstances. I don’t like the fact that you have to pay a sign up fee regardless, whether the option will go through or not. Also, I don’t like the fact that they collect your money up front for flight(s) that can be up to 11 months away. Not sure how diligently the company keeps the cash reserves separate.