Routehappy finally lifts the lid today on what it's calling a 'next generation of flight metasearch' and after more than a year since launching its beta site.
The startup is seeking to bring some harmony to the discord between flight search aggregation and airlines by combining experience with low prices and flight availability.
Founder Robert Albert says:
"Airlines are investing heavily in product enhancements and air travel has never offered more differentiated products and services in its history. But, flight search aggregation remains about price and schedule. This makes it too hard for flyers to understand and value their disparate options - and doesn’t give the entire industry an effective way to merchandise and promote their differentiated products and services."
The eight-strong team brings a wealth of experience to the table with time spent at sites including Site59, Travelocity, Priceline, Kayak, Jetsetter, IgoUgo, American Airways, Air France and the US Air Force.
Founder and CEO Robert Albert and co-founder and data architect Adam Gwosdof are also backed up by heavyweight advisers including TripIt Co-founder Scott Hintz.
To date Routehappy has raised seed funding of $1.5 million from a number of venture capitalists and industry angels and says its market is 2.85 billion commercial air passengers.
The service plans to make money from lead generation and advertising but in a more targeted and tailored way.
Q&A with founder and CEO Robert Albert
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves (differently to what is already out there) and for whom?
Airlines are investing billions of dollars upgrading in-flight and on the ground services, yet no flight search aggregator (and even most airlines) expose meaningful, easy to understand information about the product in the search funnel when consumers need it most. Our mission is to help people fly better.
Flyers can quickly and easily find flights with more comfortable seats on better planes with the amenities they care about. The industry's first "Happiness Factors" and "Happiness Scores" are Routehappy's secret sauce. We rank billions of flights and connections worldwide, which are matched with a powerful low fare search engine. Scores and prices are presented side-by-side for a fresh approach to flight search.
The team of experts - who we call Flight Geniuses - spent more than a year researching, analyzing, and grading aircraft types, seats, amenities and trip duration to engineer its signature Happiness Scores based on the Happiness Factors flyers care about most. Routehappy presents more flight details than any other source and offers unique Happiness Factors flyers won’t find anywhere else, explaining each one with expert tips from the Flight Geniuses.
Flyers can filter results by Happiness Factors including:
- Nicer aircraft - highlighting the most and the least comfortable planes, including better regional jets and the most modern, spacious aircraft loaded with features.
- Seat - 25+ types analyzed by legroom, width and style, revealing roomier economy seats, plus the full range of premium seats, including recliner, angled and full flat pod.
- Seat layout - 55+ variations show flights with fewer people per row and the lowest number of middle seats: including planes that have nine versus 10 seats across in the same space.
- Entertainment - 20+ types, from overhead monitors to full on demand in-seat video, plus the very latest in “Netflix on a plane” streaming to your own device.
- In-seat power - nearly a dozen kinds, from adapter-required to plugs + USB.
- Wifi - the most comprehensive and updated source for wifi availability on flights, including rapidly expanding international coverage.
- Duration - duration scoring helps flyers find the best possible connections.
- Flyer Ratings - real flyer ratings, reviews, tips and pictures for airlines & airports worldwide.
Los Angeles to Miami - AA has nine non-stop flights. Two have much better economy seats than the other seven. At least three have wifi. Four have the old kind of overhead entertainment (while the others have more modern kinds, either in-seat or streaming to your own device.) Flyers can easily pick a flight that more fully meets their individual needs with this information.
Dubai to Bangkok - Emirates has four non-stop flights. Only one has the best kind of business class seat, a full flat pod. The other three have angled flat seats. Business class passengers on Emirates are often surprised when they get one of the older seats, and now they have the information at their fingertips to pick the newest one.
Why should people or companies use your start-up?
We’ve created a better way to search for flights. In one, incredibly easy to use site, we provide everything a traveller needs to find the perfect flight: low fares, comprehensive availability and Happiness Scores and Happiness Factors to ensure they get the best bang for their buck. Consumers like getting the best product they can for their money - and in the case of flights, that means a more comfortable experience with perks such as plugs and wifi so you can work or tweet during your flight, or in-seat entertainment to occupy the little ones.
Routehappy is really useful for frequent flyers - who love how easy it’s become to find the better flights among their preferred carrier or alliance. Independent flyers also love how easy is it is to find the best flights for their money.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We’re focused heavily on PR, since media loves talking about all of the many nuances of air travel and we have something new, fresh and unique to offer. We’re also focused on making the site social and sticky in new ways for air travel. Socially, we’re sharing hidden gems of air travel via our Flight Genius blog and social media channels. We expect to build a real following of experience optimizers interested in insights that only experts know, until now.
We're presenting tips and photos in a clever, funny way that we hope becomes popular and dare we hope, viral. To make our product sticky, we’ve incorporated features like flight reviews via our website and iPhone app, Expert status, a custom route map, TripIt integration and more.
Flyer ratings are a key component of the Happiness Score, so motivating flyers to join the community and share when they have something to say is a great way to engage flyers. We’re also seeing some great traction from SEO so far, because we have original, unique content. For us, though, it’s mostly about building a great product that solves a real problem in an easy way.
How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
We initially envisioned Routehappy as a social community for flyers to review flights and share insider tips. We always planned to add the metasearch functionality next. But we realized about a year ago that what the marketplace needed was a new generation of metasearch site that incorporated our happiness data and expert tips directly into an easy to use low fare search engine so we prioritized it for the full launch.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
In three years, we hope to have de-commoditized air travel. We hope to create a marketplace where flyers care about happiness when they fly and get it more often (in addition to not instead of low price!). We also hope to be working closely with every meaningful airline, as well as helping them maximize their investments in products and services by emphasizing experience, alongside price. There are two challenges to these goals:
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
- Air travel is a complex space and gathering the data Routehappy needs to unveil the experiential factors flyers care about is difficult and time consuming. It requires a lot of manual labor and expertise.
- Secondly, Routehappy is teaching people that not all flights are created equal. The #1 Google Search in travel is "Cheap Flights." We are trying to influence this behavior. Show consumers experience matters in addition to finding cheap flights. Teach them they have control over their comfort, without paying a fortune.
Flight search has become commoditized. Because flight pricing is so confusing, the industry has focused on helping flyers find the cheapest fares. But it’s not enough, especially as the industry continues to offer more and more differentiated products and services to flyers.
Routehappy's mission is admirable - finding a way back from flights as just a cheap product to something that maintains value in consumer minds while highlighting those extras that create more of an experience is like a Holy Grail right now.
The way ahead could present a few hurdles however. Not least is how to gain some traction and in many ways, it could be harder for Routehappy than others because it needs to get consumers to buy into 'next gen flight metasearch' as well as the concepts of Happiness Factors and Scores. There's a whole education process to be done there.
There's another issue of time. How many people these days have time to go through all the ins and outs of a particular airline and aircraft and what it offers on and off the ground. Hopefully Routehappy will offer up the information in such a slick way that it won't add to the overall flight search agony we all currently suffer.
The strategy to build a following via media, quirky social media initiatives and the hope of something viral is good but it needs to be backed up the promised service marrying price, availability and this idea of the elements fliers most care about. Routehappy, bring it on."
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.