Upgrading to Business Class doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, I was recently able to upgrade an international flight from Economy to Business Class for the princely sum of $32. For this price I not only received a Business Class seat and service on the flight, but also priority check-in and airport lounge access.
The cheap upgrade was possible through a platform called Optiontown. The website offers discounted upgrades on 10 airlines including Vietnam Airlines, Air India and EgyptAir.
How Optiontown upgrades work
If you’ve booked a flight on any participating airline, you can enter your booking reference number on the Optiontown website and you’ll be offered the chance to upgrade to Business Class for a reduced price. The price for the “Upgrade Travel Option” is fixed, however you can offer to pay a higher amount to increase your priority in the upgrade queue.
You’ll then be notified up to 3 days before your flight, and no later than 4 hours before departure whether your upgrade has been successful. If it was successful, you’ll fly in Business Class. Alternatively, if Business Class is full and an upgrade is not available, Optiontown promises to refund your money within 5 business days.
As well as upgrades, Optiontown sells lounge access, guaranteed empty neighbour seats and various other services for various airlines.
How I upgraded for $32
Recently I flew with Air Namibia from Cape Town to Windhoek. A few weeks before the flight, I logged on to OptionTown and was given the option to upgrade my flight for just USD22 (AU$32).
The price difference between an Economy and Business Class ticket on this flight would have been $150, so this was an excellent deal! I paid the $32 by credit card and received a confirmation email.
On the morning of my flight – around 12 hours before departure – I received an email from OptionTown informing me that my upgrade had been successful.
Which airlines offer Optiontown upgrades?
There are currently 10 airlines that partner with Optiontown to offer discounted flight upgrades. These airlines are:
- Air Burkina
- Air Namibia
- Air India
- Biman Bangladesh
- Cambodia Angkor Air
- Oman Air
- Vietnam Airlines
The cost of an upgrade varies by route and airline. For example, upgrading on this Air India domestic flight would cost USD79.
The benefits and inclusions also vary. In general, you’ll receive all the benefits of Business Class when upgrading via Optiontown, except for extra frequent flyer points and ticket flexibility. This generally includes priority check-in, boarding and baggage, lounge access and additional baggage allowance. But there are exceptions, for example, upgrading on Vietnam Airlines may not entitle you to lounge access.
If your upgrade is unsuccessful, you should receive a refund within 5 business days. However, beware that Optiontown has received mixed reviews online, with some users saying it took much longer to get a refund. So, do follow up to ensure you receive your refund if you’re entitled to one. There have also been some reports of upgrades being confirmed by Optiontown but then not being honoured by the airline at check-in. (In this instance, you would still be entitled to a refund.)
Many other airlines use Plusgrade
While only 10 airlines use Optiontown, many dozens use the Plusgrade system to offer passengers the opportunity to “bid” for an upgrade in what is essentially a silent auction. Qantas, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand are among the many airlines using Plusgrade.
Between Plusgrade and Optiontown, you have the opportunity to bid for empty Business Class seats on many airlines all over the world. Most airlines are happy to earn a little extra revenue for seats that would otherwise fly empty, which is also great for travellers.
P.S. You can also read a review of the Air Namibia Business Class experience.