Robert Albert, CEO and co-founder of Routehappy, says that “flying doesn’t have to be a crap shoot.” It looks like investors agree, since the startup just raised $1.5 million in seed funding.
Albert says his goal is to build “the world’s flight experience search engine.” Whenever you look for flights online now, it’s basically all about price and schedule. For many of us, those probably seem like the two most important factors — until we’re crammed into a tiny seat for hours and discover that there’s no on-flight WiFi.
Hipmunk is trying to address that problem by allowing users to search for flights based on “agony” — but again, that’s mostly a question of schedule (the number of layovers, the length of the flight, etc.). Albert and his team want to bring a lot more data to bear on the problem. For one thing, he says Routehappy is connected to “hundreds” of third-party data sources, allowing users to find relevant information specifically a flight that they’re thinking about booking, like aircraft quality, seat type, and whether it has plugs and WiFi.
In addition, Routehappy allows experts to share their tips. In other words, if you’re a frequent flyer from (say) San Francisco to Los Angeles, then you’ve probably got a good idea of how to improve the experience — the fastest security line, the best food options in the terminal, and so on.
Routehappy first launched its beta website in March, and since then users have contributed more than 90,000 ratings, tips, photos, and other pieces of content. You might think this is just an opportunity for people to complain about crappy flights (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the company says nearly 60 percent of user sentiment has been positive. Routehappy also launched its iPhone app for sharing and reading tips last month.
As for the funding, it comes from High Peaks Venture Partners, Contour Venture Partners, and Vocap Ventures, as well as angel investors from the travel industry. High Peaks’ Brad Svrluga and Contour’s Matt Gorin are joining the board, which also includes Albert, co-founder Adam Gwosdof, and TripIt co-founder Scott Hintz.
So how broad is the potential user base? Albert says there are two different audiences. First, there are the “experience optimizers,” who will embrace this as a way to improve their flying experience without having to do a lot of research on their own. But there are also “A to B flyers,” who mostly just care about price and schedule, but probably care about at least a few elements of the experience beyond price — at least when they think about it. Albert is hoping to draw the latter group to the Routehappy site, but he’s also planning to reach them through content deals with other flight search sites, which could provide a subset of Routehappy’s data and rankings.
Speaking of data, the company has also released a ranking of airlines based on seat comfort, specifically the number of “roomy”, “standard”, and “tight” seats on each flight. At the top of the list? JetBlue, US Airways, and Virgin America. JetBlue and Virgin are pretty predictable, but not US Airways. We can expect more of these “hidden insights” from Routehappy in the future, Albert says.