Truth be told, most Americans choose their airline flights solely by the price of the ticket. However, is that the only thing that is really important in making your decision? A new website, Routehappy thinks that there should be more to it. They think that what the passenger will experience should play a bigger role, especially when the prices of airfares are close. Their brand new service just launched this morning, and I wanted to share some of my experiences with it.
The true strength of Routehappy is the front end where flights are planned. The interface is amazingly simple. From the site's front page you input which airports you want to fly from and to, pick your dates of travel, select your desired class of service, and tell them how many travelers are in your party. Click on the search button and after it does its thing for a few moments (and makes the short wait worth your while) up pops the results screen. Beautifully laid out in a simple yet powerful display, are a list of flight options that are sortable and filterable. However the revolutionary part of this new service is the "happiness score." Through Routehappy's secret formulas, reviews of the airports, airlines, aircraft, amenities, and particular routes are crunched together to give a numeric one through ten rating to each of your particular flight options. No matter which sort option you choose, and in addition to the default 'happiest', there are the ones you would expect such as fastest or cheapest, that happiness rating is always prominently displayed right next to the price. Moving to the right there is a row of color-coded, labeled icons which show information at a glance about the aircraft, seat, IFE, power ports and WiFi along with a rating of the airline. Hover over any of these for more information or simply click on the 'More' button on the right hand side for a full summary of the flight. Once you find one that you like (or an outbound and a return for a round trip), click on one of the yellow "Book" buttons and you are hustled off to the airline's website with everything except for your frequent flier and credit card numbers already selected.
Where does the power behind Routehappy's amazing selection interface come from? It's from a crowd-sourced review system that gets mashed together with published information about each and every flight. The reviewing system is so super simple that even a kid could do it. After inputing various information about your flight including which airports and airlines you used, you come to page that lets you rate each flight and airport on a one to ten scale. For a basic review that is it, though if you want to get more in-depth the next page has a breakdown of the many different factors that go into a flight with a very basic thumbs up/thumbs down rating system. And if you want to go absolutely crazy with your review, once you have assigned one of these ratings, a bubble appears where you can add in all sorts of great information including written tips and comments, photos, and a myriad of little details that varies by category. It is largely a very slick and user friendly interface and the whole review process takes just a couple of minutes. Want to write your review while you are waiting at bagagage claim? The have an iPhone app that puts the power of the pen in the palm of your hand. I reviewed a couple of one-stop flights that I had taken a few months ago on my iPhone and each direction took no more than 5 minutes. And that was reviewing 2 flights and 3 airports with written comments in several places. It even seems that you can review each step of your trip as it happens, something which i plan to try out on my next flight.
So with all this greatness, where does Routehappy come up a bit short? Well to be honest, the interface is very sharp but there are a few minor hiccups. On the iPad, I noticed a few rough spots that simply didn't exist on the computer. One particularly perplexing issue on the iPad arose when I typed in jfk (lack of capitalization intentional). "New York, NY" should show up, however the website's built-in auto-complete feature got together with iOS's dastardly AutoCorrect and their unholy lovechild looked like this: "New York, JFK". The Routehappy website didn't like that one too much and wouldn't spit me out any results. It took me a minute or so to figure out just what was going on. Another potential issue is the fact that flight choices are limited to non-stop and one-stop. So the Seattle-Dallas-Chicago-Scranton flight that I took a couple years ago would never show up with its 2 stops even though that routing was one of the better options. Looking for flights on Southwest? You are out of luck since they don't publish their routes through the normal distribution channels that Routehappy relies on. Finally, and this is admittedly very minor, the interfaces are so smooth and graphical in general that when that wasn't the case it stuck out a bit.
All in all, Routehappy has developed an excellent product that should hopefully help to redefine how flights are booked. So break away from the low-price-wins game. After all, you might just find out just how much a little extra can get you like I did comparing the cheapest flights from LaGuardia to Fort Lauderdale. Does having more legroom, a seat that reclines, and a seatback TV make a flight worth an extra $7.00 to you? It sure would be worth it to me. When you throw in a free checked and carry-on bag (versus potential fees of over $100) it is definitely worth it. So the next time you need to fly somewhere, give Routehappy a try and see just how happy your flight can be.