A friend told me that buying AirAsia X economy ticket and later upgrade to Premium Flatbed (sort of like business class for AirAsia) is cheaper than buying Premium Flatbed straight from their website. So I searched for upgrade and found Optiontown Upgrade Travel Option Air Asia X.
Optiontown is a third-party company that offers travel upgrades for a few airlines they partnered with, all as listed in the picture below (obtained from Optiontown Facebook Page).
I was so excited to find out this upgrade option and it claims that upgrade to Business Class at up to 75% less than normal ticket price. Here’s my return flight ticket price from Perth to Kuala Lumpur and vice versa:
OPTIONTOWN UPGRADE TRAVEL OPTION Air Asia X – Premium Flatbed
Note: Amount above are in US Dollars.
To summarize the price:
Average Savings for return ticket is roughly A$322 (RM966), overall 16% savings from original Premium Flatbed Fare.
I am not sure if I was just unlucky or was it because its prime holiday timing, the air ticket was exceptionally expensive.
I have to admit that I did not do such a detail calculation at the time of purchasing my ticket and upgrading with Optiontown. My mind was set to believe that it is cheaper and I will definitely get the upgrade as I booked 2 months earlier from my flight. I was just full of excitement.
The Upgrade Process:
On the front page of Optiontown website, you will see a box for your to enter your flight details and “Buy Upgrade Now” Button. Once you have your details in, it will bring you to a window where you can choose what to upgrade.
Now I can’t actually demonstrate the upgrade step by step as I have not got any flight booked at the moment. I do recalled it will ask you what kind of upgrade you want. The most popular upgrades are UTO (Upgrade Travel Option) which allow you to upgrade to Business Class; and ESO (Empty Seat Option) which gives you a full row (3 empty seats).
When you choose the UTO, it will have 3 price options being Priority 1, 2 and 3. They claimed that Priority 1 gives you higher chance of getting the upgrade, which is also the most expensive option. Of course, I chose Priority 1 as they are only about 30 bucks different. They will also give you a backup ESO (in case you did not get the UTO) and if did not get UTO but ESo, you will only be charged for the ESO price, they will refund the rest to you.
We all know that if you can’t get the UTO/ESO upgrade, Optiontown will refund the full amount to your account. However, I suggest you read their Terms and Conditions VERY CAREFULLY.
So once you purchased the upgrade from Optiontown , you will received a confirmation email from them like so:
UTO Upgrade Confirmation Email
ESO Confirmation Email
“ You will be notified about your upgrade request via email around 1-3 days before departure but no later than 4 hours before departure. We advise you to wait for your upgrade decision before you check-in for your flight, as it might impact your chances to get upgraded.”
A few days before my flight to KL, I was getting a bit impatience and frustrated that I have not gotten the upgrade. So I started checking online and look for review (I know this is kinda stupid), and I couldn’t find any recent review, most of them were at least 4 years ago.
Finally I found their Facebook page, and was surprised by the review. On Facebook they are rated at 3.8/5.0 (as of 18th July 2017). I read every single recent review and was so shocked that their service is crap and many did not get the refund. I started panicking like F*CK and even emailed them to ask about my upgrade, and they responded me with the same sentence above (They advised that I shall wait until 4 hours before my flight).
So I end up waiting for it. Unfortunately I wasn’t granted for the flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur. They notified me exactly 4 hours before the flight.
I was only granted for the flight back to Perth for KL. They sent me an email to let me know my upgrade is approved, but still subject to availability. When I saw the phrase “subject to availability”, I was pissed off. How can an upgrade be approved but still subject to availability?
So I really wanted to get the Premium Flatbed back to Perth as I was really tired at the end of the holiday. I had been checking Air Asia Website on the availability for Premium Flatbed. On the day of my flight, there’s still two Flatbed available. However, they didn’t notified me until about 10 hours before my flight. I was so happy to see the word “Congratulations”, but not anymore when I saw “subject to availability”. This is such a stupid system.
“Subject to availability” can be anything. Someone may buy the ticket, or another Optiontown customer go to claim the upgrade earlier than you. So you have to sort of fight for it.
So I went to the airport 3 hours before my flight (normally check in counter opens 2 hours before the flight departure). I immediately visit the check in counter to upgrade my ticket and ask the staff how many empty seats are there. He told me there was 6 empty seats. I was stunned by the number as Air Asia website showed only 2 seats left. But luckily they upgraded me to Premium Flatbed in the end.
FINAL VERDICT: In my opinion, Optiontown is NOT a Scam, but a stupid Travel Upgrade System that f*ck up your holiday mood.
So that’s my experience with Optiontown Upgrade, and personally I did not enjoy it. To save that 16% for a you-never-know-if-you-can-get-it upgrade, I encountered the following bad experiences:
- Air Asia X Premium Flatbed Upgrade with Optiontown does not grant you extra luggage. If you upgrade from Economy, you will still need to buy the luggage separately.
- You can’t check in until 4 hours before the flight. If you are travelling in couples/groups, checking in late means you get shit seats (unless you pre-purchased the seat). Of course it means you will have to arrive at the airport earlier to check in as well.
- If you are transiting from Domestic to International, it’s really fucked up as you still can’t check in until 4 hours prior to your international flight. Imagine you have 30kg luggage, travelling from Kota Kinabalu to Perth (transit in KLIA2), you can’t check through the luggage. It means you will have to take that 30kg luggage out while transiting in KLIA2, and re-check in again later. They did mention that if you checked in, it MIGHT affect the upgrade decision, but if you’re lucky enough like me, you can still stand a chance to get the upgrade. I risked it and checked through my luggage as I just can’t be bothered taking them out (and sort of expecting I can’t get the upgrade).
- Even when your upgrade has been approved, you will still lose it. They only APPROVED your upgrade, sort of like accepting your Expression of Interest to upgrade. The rest you will have to fight for it or pray that no one’s going to buy that last-minute business class ticket.
- It says on the email above that you will have to contact the staff to check for availability and confirm for final upgrade. In case you failed to contact the staff for any reasons, the upgrade price remained NON-REFUNDABLE. So Optiontown says my upgrade is “Subject to Availability“, it means I have not gotten the upgrade (until I checked with the staff) anyway. Why does it have to be non-refundable if I can’t contact the staff for ANY reasons? So you don’t want to give me my Business Class but still wants my money. This doesn’t really make any sense to me.
- It ruins your holiday mood overall, at least for me. All these problems have definitely made my trip a bit unpleasant and I was nervous all the time. I was worried that they won’t refund my money, even after I got the upgrade I still have to worry that I will lose it. I had rather just don’t upgrade and take economy instead. Because once you upgrade and paid the money, you can’t request for a refund. You will just have to wait and be nervous.
Is there anything good about Optiontown? Well, I got my money refunded into my bank account 3 days later, which was a surprised as many customers complaint about their money not being refunded on their Facebook page. So that might be some luck too, but I believe you can email or Facebook message them to sort it out. That’s all I can think about.
Will I upgrade with Optiontown again? Definitely NO.
If you look at my calculation above, it doesn’t save me A LOT (not even 50%) of the money. I’d rather purchase Premium Flatbed straight from Air Asia to save me all the problems. You definitely don’t want something like that ruin your holiday. In fact, if you choose the right timing, Air Asia Premium Flatbed can be so much cheaper (the cheapest I have seen was A$390!). Just wait and check for their promotion period.
Of course, this is personal. If you just want to try Business Class/Premium Flatbed and it doesn’t matter to you whether you can get it or not, then go for it. But what’s the point of upgrade if you still need to “mentally” fight for it? I’d rather travel in peace with economy class.
Have you tried Optiontown before and what was your experience?
Are you wondering if it’s worth it to pay for Air Asia Premium Red Lounge? Read my full review here.