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Routehappy launches: flights rated by 'happiness' factor

By David Flynn     Filed under:

Plenty of websites let you search flights by price, but Routehappy serves a new twist on the familiar flight search engine formula: it factors in comfort as a 'happiness' factor built around the passenger experience.

Routehappy, which goes live today after almost two years, is less about searching for the cheapest flights and more about finding the best flights.

The site's Happiness Score takes into account seat type, legroom, seat width, entertainment, AC power points, wifi, on-time performance records plus user review scores for the airline.

And while you can still make your pick on price, Routehappy's Happiness Score helps you determine if the money you save up front is worth it against, say, a slighter more expensive but noticeably more comfortable flight.

In other words, Routehappy turns considerations of outright price into a judgement of value. And that's a boon for business travellers, who can discover a better flight for the same price or less – whether they're sitting in the cheap seats down back or stretched out at the expensive end of the plane.

"All flights are not created equal" is the company's mantra, Routehappy CEO Robert Albert tells Australian Business Traveller in an exclusive interview.

Routehappy has spent two years gathering, verifying and scoring data on a cabin-by-cabin basis for airlines worldwide, and now combines it with real-world flyer reviews, global flight availability and pricing. 

"We start off by ranking all the flights or connections on your route with a simple Happiness score for your flight so you can compare all the options" Albert explains. "From there, it's just one click to switch between happiness and price."

"Then you can narrow down further to find the perfect flight according to your personal preferences. Are power points an absolute must-have for you? Or how about roomier seats on a long flight on the Kangaroo Route, or arriving into a particular airport in a city like Tokyo, London or New York? You can filter our results by those factors and more." 

Australian Business Traveller took a first look at Routehappy in December last year, but now that the site's live – and unlike so many US-based sites, it's packed with accurate data on Australian flights.

Routehappy in action

Business class is one of Routehappy's strengths, and business travellers will find the site an invaluable resource.

Other flight search sites don't explain whether your business class seat will be a recliner, angled lie-flat seat or fully flat bed.

But Routehappy scores and ranks every type of business class seat in the sky, although its terminology will take some getting used to.

For example, you'll know if business class on your flight will be the convertible style seats found on Qantas' older 737-400s (Routehappy calls this Eurobiz, as it's similar to 'Eurobusiness' class) to spacious fully flat beds with direct aisle access (or "Full flat pods" in Routehappy parlance).

"The Kangaroo Route from Sydney to London is a good example of how Routehappy works," CEO Robert Albert says.

In business class, Singapore Airlines' all-A380 connection via Changi comes first with a 9.5 Happiness Score. Etihad's A340-600 and Emirates' A380 are close on SQ's tail at 9.4, with Cathay at 9.1 (because CX doesn't offer the chance of Wi-Fi, Albert suggests) and Virgin Atlantic Hong Kong at an 8.9.

"Singapore Airlines wins thanks to the quiet cabin and big windows on the A380, a full flat pod, direct aisle access for everyone, on-demand entertainment, full universal plugs and USB sockets, the chance of having Wi-Fi on board, and a Very Good flyer rating," Routehappy's Albert explains.

Who flies happiest between Melbourne and Sydney?

Melbourne to Sydney is also a useful comparison.

The streaming iPad entertainment on Qantas' 767 jets bring its score to an 8.0, with with Virgin Australia's spacious little Embraer E190 jets and Qantas' 737-800s following shortly behind at a 7.9.

Virgin Australia's 737-800s score a 7.6 thanks to their lack of plugs and handheld entertainment, with one of the old Qantas convertible seating 737-400s bringing up the rear at 7.2.

 When sorting by price, Virgin's Embraers pop up as real diamonds in the rough. If your criteria (or your company's) are mainly "lowest economy fare", then those are clearly the flights to pick.

Trans-Tasman happiness 

From Sydney to Auckland, things are even more clear-cut.

Of the nonstop flights, Emirates' A380 is the unsurprising winner with an outstanding 9.5 Happiness Score, with Qantas' Jetconnect 737s following behind at 8.0. Yet Emirates is cheaper than all but China Airlines.

Mix and mis-match

The system also makes allowances for mixed schedules where airlines  use different aircraft on the same route on different days of the week.

A good example of this is Qantas' daily QF127/128 between Sydney and Hong Kong, which uses an Airbus A380 on Thursday to Sunday and a Boeing 747 the rest of the week.

On the QF 747 days, Routehappy rates Cathay Pacific's premium economy slightly above that of Qantas (a rating we'd take issue with, but that's by the by).

But on days when Qantas runs the A380, the Happiness Score for Qantas jumps higher than Cathay.

Note the oddball pricing for Cathay Pacific - clearly something that Routehappy will need to refine.

The road to more happiness

Still to come are availability for some budget airlines like Jetstar and Tiger, which on the whole restrict their tickets to their own websites.

"We'd love to include these airlines in our results for those flyers who value price above all, and we're continually talking to them to try to get access to their booking systems" Albert says.

"We're planning to expand our booking options to include as many Australian and Asia-Pacific airlines as we can. And we know that we need to get more reviews from Australian travelers, especially in business and first class. We've got an iPhone app and a web interface that makes putting together a quick review a snap."

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 26/4/13 by djb

This is reviewed website is rediculous.

I have booked 2 trips with emirates out of colombo in a few months. One is a business class return to paris the other a first class return to nairobi both via dubai of course. For interest I put in a search for these routes on these days in business and the site failed to locate any direct flights for emirates out of colombo to dubai. The only flights it located with emirates were flying up to india then on to dubai, it was unable to locate any of the 4 daily flights connecting colombo to dubai and they rated etihad as the best even though they are flying a320s with regional bus class out of colombo compared to emirates 777's with international business class flying ex colombo!

So I did the search again with a different results than the first but still not identifying any of emirates 4 daily flights out of colombo!

So it is serving up incomplete flight schedules and giving incorrect prices for these flights (note especially the cx business class costs colombo to paris they are quoting by memory around $12,500 the price obtainable on cx website is at least a third this!)

David is this article a paid placement? Have you tried using the site on routes you know well or have you just regurgitated the company's press release.

1 on 26/4/13 by David

Hi djb. No, this is not a 'paid placement'; yes, we've checked routes that we know, as you should be able to see from the examples given and screenshots provided; and no, we have not simply regurgitated a press release, especially as you can see we have interviewed the head of Routehappy, and again with his comments on specific AU routes.

2 on 26/4/13 by JamesM

DJB: I'm going to try RouteHappy this weekend to look into a forthcoming trip to Europem will report back on how it goes. But I don't think you can blame AusBT for a review based on Australian flights for problems that are clearly RouteHappy's for a different part of the world. It's not as if AusBT can check every single route in the world looking for errors!

3 on 26/4/13 by CL9

Hang on a second before you accuse AusBT of product placement! If you haven't realised already Routehappy has to get specialists from around each region of the world to give detailed info on flights- obviously Colombo hasn't been reviewed/noted yet! Of course David has tried it as he has clearly written information on certain routes with screenshots. Calm down.

4 on 27/4/13 by ralbert

Hi djb, I'm Robert Albert, Routehappy's CEO.

We looked into this one, and it's an issue specific to those ultra-low business and first class fares where you start your journey in Colombo. It looks like all fares above economy from Colombo have been removed from the GDS through which we (and others) get flight availability.

We're already tracking down situations like this to get extra flight availability from multiple sources, like airlines' own websites, so as we evolve you'll see that on the site.

In the meantime, Routehappy is all about using our Happiness Scores and deep data information to help everyone find the real value in everyday air travel.

2 on 26/4/13 by djb

so how do you explain the poor results from my search.

I fly a great deal out of asia in business & first & I know these airlines & the routes very well. The results from routehappy don't add up.

Maybe they are accurate for australia routes but they are way off for other parts of asia.

Its a big hole in their data to completely miss emirates yet somehow locate a kenyan airways flight.

1 on 26/4/13 by CL9

Well fine, there is a loop hole. It doesn't mean you need to go raging on about it and accuse journalists of product placement.

2 on 26/4/13 by Al

"so how do you explain the poor results from my search?"

I don't disagree with you that RouteHappy has got that search wrong but don't you think that is for RouteHappy to explain, rather than for AusBT to explain?

David has obviously checked RouteHappy from an Australian perspective, so to note a shortcoming in RouteHappy and then call AusBT's professional ethics into question is a bit rich.

But anyway, I am not surprised to learn that even after the site's claimed 2 years of research that they have a few gaps to be plugged. I'm sure no site is ever perfect then it launches, I like the 'look' of RouteHappy and what it's trying to do, I'm sure they will be working hard to plug any holes now that they are live and can collect a lot more data from travellers.

3 on 26/4/13 by djb

well this is the second time abt has reviewed this site (see ABT 14 DEC, 2012).

I checked out the site then and found it poor as did many others,  a post from the company in reply said that it was a beta version & that & insufficient data was the problem.

Yet the data holes are still there, if they haven't reviewed colombo don't include it.

And david when you review a site you need to point out it's weakness as well as it's strengths. 

1 on 26/4/13 by David

DJB: to be accurate, our first article was more a 'preview' as Routehappy was not yet fully launched, but if you look at the article then you will see that we did call out several shortcomings of the site, mainly in regard to AU data. That is AusBT's focus.

And I'm well aware of 'how to review' something, DJB, and my article above clearly cites a few shortcomings (both from subjective and objective viewpoints) based on my time with Routehappy this morning. But if you expect me to spend the next month entering every route on the face of the earth in order to find instances where Routehappy falls short, purely to include those as 'weaknesses' – well, that ain't gonna happen. :)

I can see that from your experience with searching for flights to Colombo, Routehappy has some shortcomings, but I don't see how you expect any site other than perhaps Sri Lankan Business Traveller to drill down to that degree of detail.

4 on 26/4/13 by djb

david your response is interesting.

I didn't expect you to have checked out colombo flights. 

But I'm surprised at your response to a reader's imput which reveals real problems in a website.

As you well know Emirates is THE airline of the moment and for them to have missed them from the search results is frankly amazing and brings into question all their results.

I guess I like the more robust and challenging approach of travel journalists such as ben sandilands at

1 on 26/4/13 by CL9

Well why don't you get out and read instead!

2 on 26/4/13 by David

djb: I don't have any issue with your finding flaws in Routehappy.

I acknowledge them as flaws, and flaws that thus need to be fixed. But that's an issue for Routehappy.

My response isn't about the flaws in Routehappy. It's a response to your assumption that a journalist can check everything in a site like this before writing a review (because how else am I supposed to magically know that Routehappy has an error in flights from Dubai to Colombo?).

Just think about what you're actually expecting. It's like expecting somebody to check Optus 4G coverage in every street in Sydney – no, in fact every street in Australia, and indoors as well – before reviewing Optus 4G. 

And I also find it a bit over the top that on the basis of one observed hiccup on Routehappy you can sledge AusBT's ethics and suggest the review is some form of paid advertorial.

3 on 26/4/13 by Al

"I guess I like the more robust and challenging approach of travel journalists such as ben sandilands at" - there's plenty of 'challenging' content on AusBT and I don't think you will ever see Ben Sandilands even mentioning services like RouteHappy let alone reviewing them like this.

5 on 26/4/13 by djb

I do, plus many many other travel sites & blogs

you invite comments

maybe I can return the suggestion - read ben sandilands

you don't need to reply

6 on 26/4/13 by djb

for other readers to note my response to david's replies are out of sequence, as I was obviously writing mine to another comment while he as posting a new one.

David this is not a criticism of you or abt

1 on 26/4/13 by David

DJB: you ask if the article is paid placement, you ask "have you just regurgitated the company's press release", you say "when you review a site you need to point out it's weakness as well as it's strengths" and then you suggest "I like the more robust and challenging approach of travel journalists such as ben sandilands at" - mate, remind me again, which part of that isn't criticism of myself or AusBT?

7 on 26/4/13 by djb

have a look on routehappy for oct 31st hong kong to paris. It shows a 12.05a flight (actually on cathay site as 0.05 flight cx 261) gives it a poor rating as lists it as a 777.300e with recliner seats.

over to cathay site it is actually a 777w with the new fully flat business class.

look again on routehappy same date oct 31st ex singapore to paris bus returning nov 4 - nothing, nada

try again this time one-way sing-paris oct 31st as before, suprise suprise 10 (6 ex sing with various connections in hk making 10 permutations)  one-way bus flights ex sing to paris

1 on 26/4/13 by Al

Thank you for looking further into this, djb,I think it's good to know there are some 'holes' in RouteHappy and I am sure they will appreciate hearing that from you so they can fix it.

2 on 27/4/13 by ralbert

djb, that's a fair point on the Cathay 77W. We had a brief data swap yesterday that we fixed overnight our time, and the correct information is set to populate to the site before Australia wakes up on Saturday morning.

8 on 26/4/13 by Waynec

djb: I could understand that you are unhappy about the the Routehappy and the article. With the large numver of routes available in the world and constant changes, I guess it is very difficult for any site to note down the nuances of each and every product offering for every route. Afterall, travel reviews can be pretty subjective as we have our individual views on different topics.

At the end of the day, we may not like every website or review that is presented to us. However, we should all take an objective approach and get our facts right before accusing David or ausbt of doing product placements.


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