By Ben Mutzabaugh
A new travel booking site calledRoutehappyofficially launches today (April 26), hoping to help passengers choose their flights based on the quality of the flight as much as the price.
Robert Albert, Routehappy founder and CEO -- and a self-professed "airline geek" -- thinks the site will be a big hit with "experience optimizers."
Despite the aviation industry's poor reputation for customer service, Albert insists there are a lot of "hidden gems" to be found. "But you really have to know what you're looking for," he says.
That's where Routehappy comes in.
Instead of steering customers to flights that might be $1 cheaper than a competitor, Routehappy ranks flights by "Happiness Factors" - part of an algorithm that rates flights on items such as personal space, modern planes, entertainment, and customer-service reviews.
"In many cases, consumers are choosing among dozens of options, all at the same, or about the same price," says Albert. "Routehappy is the only travel site to unveil experiential data, alongside rates, so fliers can select the most comfortable flights for the lowest price."
And, in what may be an equally noteworthy departure for airfare shopping sites, Albert says airlines actually have embraced what he's doing with Routehappy. The site, Albert says, allows carriers to promote the amenities that they think differentiate their company - and that they think their customers might be willing to pay extra for.
"With other sites, everything has been so commoditized," he says. "Everything is about the cheapest flight ... to the dollar. Routehappy actually makes it easier for airlines to differentiate themselves from each other. And it makes it easier for them to sell more expensive seats, provided that they're offering something."
Albert points to the New York-to-Phoenix route as one example of the "hidden gems" that he says fliers can uncover with Routehappy.
He notes that US Airways offers seven daily non-stop flights on the route. Of those, Albert says a Routehappy search would show three of those flights have an inch more legroom than the other seats in standard economy. Those three flights also feature Wi-Fi, which can be hit-or-miss on the others.
"These flights are almost always priced the same, so a little bit of knowledge can make a huge difference to a flier's comfort and productivity," Albert says.
Another novel feature for Routehappy: Flier reviews in which travelers can rate and evaluate each flight, just like consumers do on sites like Yelp.
"In addition to finding the lowest prices and comprehensive flight availability, we want to help fliers find 'happiness' when they fly," Albert says. "A lot of the time it will mean scoring a better flight for the same price a flier would have paid for a worse one."