Finding The Best Flights With Routehappy

by on October 17, 2012 · 13 comments

in Video Blog Post

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It wasn’t all about work for me this past weekend at the Chicago Seminars – I also got to meet and talk with other start ups, including a great new site called Routehappy, which rates and tracks airlines and specific flights based on user-generated reviews. When I want to know about an upcoming flight, I usually go to a site like Seatguru to find out about the aircraft type and the amenities onboard, and while a valuable resource, it’s not always up to date, it can be hard to tell exactly which version of which aircraft will be flying the route I’m on, and there aren’t any good photos to help me poke around the plane and see if it’s something I want to fly.

That’s where Routehappy comes in. It goes beyond what other sites I frequently check do, and actually lets you check the exact flight you’ll be on to see what’s in store for you based on reader reviews.

Before leaving Chicago, I took a few minutes to sit down with Routehappy founder and CEO Bob Albert, and co-founder Adam Gwosdof about the site, what resources travelers can find on it, how you can contribute, and just what makes a flight happy.

Take a look at my video interview here, and then continue reading for some key points they brought up.

As you can hear in the video, Routehappy creates a “happiness” score for “every flight on the planet” (I mean, hey, they include Air Koryo, North Korea’s airline, so it’s got to be pretty comprehensive).

The site rates flights according to several criteria including aircraft type, seats, entertainment, electric plugs, WiFi and on-time performance. The user-generated, more subjective criteria include crew service, food quality, the lounge experience and more. All are combined into the overall rating, though readers can search by the criteria they most care about.

The Routehappy crew filter outliers out of the results, and reviewers are given “expert scores,” based on their contributions and how other reviewers rate them. You can even earn elite status up to four levels based on the quantity and quality of your contributions.

The whole vision behind the site is to change the way flyers shop for air travel. While today, flyers make travel decisions based on price, schedule and frequent flyer miles, Routehappy wants to integrate a layer of the overall experience to the search and give flyers a one-stop resource to find this information, rather than having to hunt around for reviews as they do today.

They say airlines have been supportive of the site because it gives people information aside from price – the primary factor currently – to help them choose from all the possible flights out there as well as to tout their fleet investments and other unique amenities, so it’s a win-win for the consumers and the airlines.

There’s even an iPhone app where members can review their flights, search for tips from other flyers about specific routes and connecting airports all on the go.

To test out the site, I looked up two different routes.

The first is a pretty standard domestic one from Los Angeles to Chicago O’Hare in economy next Friday. As you can see, Routehappy ranked the airlines from highest-rated to lowest in the following order: Virgin America, American, and United (though those last three are tied at 2.5 stars).

I could also filter the results by aircraft type, seats, entertainment, plugs, WiFi and on-time performance.

I filtered the results by each criterion. For aircraft type, United won with A319’s even though Virgin also flies these on the route. Virgin won for seats and entertainment. Virgin also won for plugs (although American was on the list as well) and then Virgin was the only one in the WiFi category. This seems like an oversight, though, since many of the 737’s that American operates on this route have WiFi, including the one TPG editor Eric took on Sunday. I’m not sure why that result wasn’t catalogued. Finally, for on-time performance, Virgin didn’t even rank, while American led the pack – which seems very odd given their recent issues with crew, though my most recent AA flights have been on-time, so maybe they still do rank at the top for this route.

The next route I looked up was from Chicago O’Hare to Hong Kong in “Biz or better” class. The two airlines that populated the results were Cathay Pacific and United.

Cathay won by an entire star – presumably because it flies a newer 777 instead of United’s 747, and United got a lower score in terms of seating because the business class cabin downstairs “can be cramped.” On-time performance wasn’t factored in for some reason, but hopefully it will soon be part of every search.

What I found particularly valuable about this search, though, was that it was able to tell me that this was the newest version of Cathay’s 777 with the new business class seats in it. One of the hardest things to figure out when deciding how to use your miles is which flight to book to be sure you’re getting the latest and greatest product, and the fact that you can find it here makes me really eager to use Routehappy for future searches where this is a concern.

For instance, when deciding whether to change my itinerary over the summer to fly from Stockholm to Newark to Miami on United, or to fly instead to Frankfurt and hop on a non-stop Lufthansa flight to Miami, it was really the scheduling that was my main concern. It was more of a surprise that I was flying one of the 11 747-400’s that the airline had fitted with its new first-class cabin.

Had I searched Routehappy while investigating my plans, however, I would have known that before I boarded…and you can bet I’ll be doing that in the future!

So what do you think? Are there any other factors you’d like to see Routehappy rate flights by? What other sites do you check when trying to decide between various flight options?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Rob Perelman

    Thanks for the heads up. Great site, although I am bummed that my suspicions are confirmed that my 10 hour flight tomorrow has no power ports or on demand video.

  • Guest

    Do you even know what you’re talking about anymore, Brian? LH swaps their new F vs. old F aircrafts on a daily basis. There’s no rhyme or reason. It’s a complete crapshoot up until the plane has departed FRA where you can track it on flightradar. I won’t even get started on the swaps between new C and old C on UA which happen without warning. If you’re booking an award that has a high change/redeposit fee banking on an onboard configuration, following Routehappy is not a smart or safe move.

  • thepointsguy

    Equipment swaps do indeed happen and Routehappy (or any other site) isn’t 100% reliable, but there are some routes that have the new F more than others and Miami is one of them

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  • miffSC

    Great interview – very interesting product, RouteHappy…. and enjoyed meeting the founders at the Chicago Seminars!

  • Guest

    Except it’s not accurate. LH 423 BOS-FRA was operated by a new bird yesterday but by D-ABVT, which is an old F bird today. However, the description at routehappy says that the plane is the same as the one in Miami which is a new config. All LH F planes have 1×1 seating with a separate bed…it’s just a question if it’s a seat in bed mode or an actual bed.

  • Ryan Lisa

    first route i checked (CHA-ATL) was not accurate. I also did not see anything for premium economy for ATL-LAS on the 767. Two of my three searches yielded mixed/incomplete results

  • Robert Albert

    Hi Ryan, this is Bob Albert, CEO of Routehappy. We’re working hard to build the industry’s first and most accurate accurate database of amenity information by flight to help flyers. For the most part, we think we’ve built the industry’s most accurate dataset on amenities ever assembled, but since air travel is so vast and complex, we welcome flyer reports to refine and hone our data even further. Could you spare a moment to discuss what you saw and what you expected? My personal email is bob (at) routehappy (dotcom). Thanks!

  • Adam

    Hi, it’s Adam, co-founder of Routehappy. You raise a great point about fleet reconfigurations where at any given moment, there’s a subfleet with an “old” config and a subfleet with “new” config. And your point is totally right — nobody (except for the airline – perhaps?!?) really knows until 24-48 hours out, which tail number will operate the flight, and therefore which version of the cabin and amenities will be offered. Our taxonomy for amenities tracking is still quite accurate here – for LH flights on the 744 in F class, we always indicate: Flat Bed, AVOD, plugs … which is the case for “old config” and “new config” too.

    This all feeds the Happiness score which, say, in a market that one has never flown, perhaps dominated by your own airline’s partner carriers or by unfamiliar carriers, allows you to make a very quick assessment of which flights to consider buying (or redeeming miles for) to improve and optimize your experience.

    In the case of pre-merger UA 767 and 777 aircraft, we even have some heuristics, along direct airline feeds that we are gradually incorporating into Routehappy, to better pinpoint when say a biz class recliner may turn out to be a flat bed, or vice-versa. Argh, I wish these carriers would just hurry up and complete their fleet reconfigs, huh?

    You’re right to point out equipment swaps which is particularly vexing when you’re spending hard earned miles to chase say a BA First seat or an LH First seat and you aren’t sure until flight time or close-in, what the outcome will be.

    Please email me at adam (at) routehappy (dot) com so I can share with you more about what we’re doing to try to narrow this gap in cases where it’s possible!

  • Vinh Nguyen

    I first searched NRT-SEA since I recently flew that in United First and really didn’t enjoy it. Therefore, I wanted to read what others had written about it. The search results listed the 3 flights from NRT-SEA (cool) and even listed the 787. However, there wasn’t a link to read any of the reviews for each flight. I expected to be able to click on one of the flights and read the reviews. Now, if there weren’t any reviews (in my case), I expected to be able to easily create my own review from the table. As I’m writing this, I eventually found the feature to review the flight in the tab at the top, but I think instinctively, it would have been easier to see a link to review in the search results. And another odd quirk, the only reviews I could read were for the airline itself and not the flight, which sorta defeats the purpose since I only cared about that route.

  • Bob

    Hi Vinh, Robert Albert, Founder & CEO of Routehappy here. Thanks for your comment and thoughts about the site. We’re actively working on a site upgrade as we move beyond our beta that makes the site even easier to use and more useful. Stay tuned – update coming soon!

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