Routehappy Knows What Makes a Good Flight

There are many ways to compare flights: the cheapest price, the most direct, or the one that earns the most frequent flyer miles. But sometimes you just want to make sure you experience as little hassle as possible, reducing the inevitable stress of travel.

Routehappy solves this problem by evaluating every flight on multiple criteria like seat pitch, on-board WiFi, entertainment options, and airplane type. So far, so good. But it also incorporates user reviews to correct the inevitable limitations of a purely computer-generated score.

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Think of it like SeatGuru — my favorite stop before selecting a seat on every flight — except that Routehappy evaluates the entire trip. Read more here about how it describes its mission to improve travel.

What impressed me most, however, was that Routehappy was even able to accommodate subtle differences like departure and arrival times for two nonstop flights. It also recognized the priority of longer segments. Say you wanted to fly from Seattle to Maui via San Francisco. It has data on SEA-SFO, but the results use SFO-OGG in the default view.

Now that I’ve explained the basics, I’ll walk you through using the site for the first time and point out where it excels and where I think it still needs work. Starting on the home page, I entered a search for Seattle to Maui, as I said before, with travel mid-week sometime next month.

The results I got were sorted not by price, time, or airline but instead by their Happiness score, a ranking that includes many of the experiential considerations I listed above. Of course, you’re still able to apply some of these filters if you wish. Maybe my favorite carrier, United Airlines, scores a notch below all the other options, but I can at least find out which United flight is the best when I exclude the competition.

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The fares are quite high, probably because there isn’t much time left for an advanced booking discount. But the rankings generally seem accurate. Hawaiian leaves mid-morning in a wide-body aircraft and flies nonstop. That’s a good trip in my mind. Alaska gets points docked for using a 737 instead of a 767, although I would argue that it should give priority to the 10:20 AM flight over the 6:20 PM.

At the bottom of that screenshot is another Alaska flight that connects in Portland, which gets docked a few more points. It may be hard to see here, but there are two tabs at the bottom of that result that allow you to see information for SEA-PDX or PDX-OGG. The default view here is PDX-OGG. I think we can all agree it makes no sense to compare SEA-PDX to all of the SEA-OGG nonstop options.

When you click on a flight, it tells you more information about its amenities and also draws a diagram of each segment and any connections.

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I then ran another search to see how the numbers change for first class. Overall they were a bit lower. Not a lot, and the comparative rankings were similar, but I liked that Routehappy acknowledged the differences between economy and first class. Economy class can be pretty standard and I might look more at WiFi or departure time. When in first class, I might care more about the seat and meal options. It’s a different comparison that deserves to be run again rather than use the same number for all cabins on a given flight.

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You can also choose to prioritize certain features if those are what will make your own flight especially happy. No point in considering things like WiFi if (like me) you’d rather read a book.

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Finally, Routehappy includes user reviews, including some from those it flags as “experts.” And here’s where I was a little disappointed. Any service that wants to rely on experts faces a chicken-and-egg problem. Too few reviews and they don’t actually help, but it’s hard to get enough reviews to get the ball rolling. So far I think they’re doing well enough without them, but maybe the service will improve as their audience grows.

All of my searches had a link to an expert opinion by “Erik N.” Now, the number of experts in my area may be limited given how many people in this country seem to forget that Seattle even exists. I won’t deny I sometimes wish we were since it can be so busy during the summer tourist season (those cruise ships don’t help). But I have a hard time taking seriously the opinion of someone with only eight reviews. Given that Erik N is in the 96th percentile, it appears most users are far below that number.

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No offense to Erik, of course. Reading some of his reviews I found them quite useful, so I’m not writing off the user-generated content feature of Routehappy just yet. The ability to comment on all aspects of a trip, including the airport, the flight, and even the private lounges — reflects a truly holistic approach to travel. Together with its database of hard facts like the WiFi and seat pitch mentioned earlier, Routehappy seems well positioned to give you the information you need to book the best trip possible.

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