Routehappy gets $1.5M to rank best flights, airports for travelers

There are almost 3 billion passengers that will take a seat on a commercial airplane flight this year, some seasoned veterans, but plenty of newbies. A new service aims to bring the two groups, and everyone in between, together to share useful data about the best airline routes, planes and the airports. It’s called Routehappy, and on Wednesday the New York startup is introducing itself officially to the world and announcing a $1.5 million round of funding.

The $1.5 million comes from a variety of travel-focused VC firms, including High Peaks Venture Partners, Contour Venture Partners and VoCap Ventures, and will be put toward scaling the huge amount of information Routehappy already has about routes, planes and airports.

Routehappy is both a website and a mobile app. CEO Robert Albert is a travel industry vet from Travelocity, and he knows that air travel can suck if you don’t know enough about it. As Albert put the company’s goal in a conversation last week: “We want you never to get stuck on a bad flight again.” That’s a tall order. But Routehappy says it has the answer: combining tons of data and the vast knowledge within the frequent traveler community.

The central piece of Routehappy is its “flight experience engine.” You don’t search for the cheapest flight like Kayak or Expedia, but the best flight: which seats are the roomiest, which planes have Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and seatback video and who has the most on-time flights. Routehappy has collected all that data and with it ranks every flight from 60 airlines’ nonstop U.S. routes — it’ll be expanding to more in the future — and gives it a score out of 10.

Example: Best options for US Airways PHL to SFO routes.

Collecting the data was “a massive effort,” Albert told me. “We’ve taken every aircraft, down to the version, the cabin. We have so much more data than even airlines have.” For example, he said, “Instead of telling you a number, like a seat has 31 inches [of room], we said let’s analyze what’s a standard seat, what’s tight, what’s roomy, and tell people that.”

The road to Routehappy

When Albert resigned from Travelocity a few years back, he said was determined to find a better way to discover flight tips beyond googling. There are people who know Boston Logan to LAX or Seattle-Tacoma to Anchorage better than anyone. That’s why Routehappy has passenger reviews. Via the app, flyers can leave a review on any flight, including the service and condition of the plane, while the flight is happening. To encourage experts to share their knowledge, Routehappy has a fun, Foursquare-like aspect: the most frequent flyers of each route will be awarded “Route Expert” status.

In addition to reviewing flights, users are also encouraged to review airports too: the best airport food, the shortest security lines and more — anything that will help flyers get through the experience as happily as possible.

There are already 90,000 reviews, photos and ratings uploaded by users in more than 60 countries since the site has been in beta, he said.

There are apps like Hipmunk that have the “agony filter” that help travelers find the best flight, but that is still focused on price, and there’s no real community knowledge shared. As a frequent air traveler, I really like the user review aspect of Routehappy. Did you know Charlotte Douglas has nice, comfy rocking chairs to chill out in between flights? I did, and now I can tell other people. I had no idea that Detroit Metro is a brand-new airport with cutting edge amenities, or the location of the least-painful TSA security line in the United Terminal at SFO. These are things I should know, and are available via Routehappy.

I could probably find this stuff by googling or scanning frequent flyer or travel geek sites, but that’s a lot of work.  I think Routehappy has identified a real need air travelers have besides shopping by price. The promise of flight rankings should lure less frequent flyers in, while the gamification aspect will keep the experts around.

And even though it’s brand new, Routehappy is already aiming to target flyers who don’t come to its site or app: its ultimate goal is to eventually have its Routehappy ranking on every travel site, from Hipmunk to Kayak, Expedia, and more to reach as many potentially unhappy or lost travelers as possible.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr user twinxamot