By Terry Gardner, Special to Tribune Newspapers
11:42 PM EDT, October 29, 2013
Routehappy.com is a search engine with a twist: It aims to help passengers not only find flight deals but also choose the trips that will make them happiest in flight.
"Routehappy can lead you to a plane with more legroom, and we're the only site that tells you what you're getting for your money. We'll give you competitive pricing too, from happiest to cheapest. Everyone else just gives you a price," said Routehappy data director John Walton, who is responsible for detailing what's inside every plane, from seating to onboard amenities ranging from Wi-Fi to entertainment.
Routehappy, launched this year, also lets you filter searches by specific airlines and airline alliances.
"The trick isn't this airline is better than that airline, but sometimes a flight on an airline in your preferred carrier's alliance may offer more comfort," Walton said. "For example, from Los Angeles to Tokyo, ANA's planes offer more legroom than you'll find on United."
Though Routehappy's search engine resembles other flight search engines, its default setting is to search for happiness and value.
What surprised me is that sometimes you can find a plane that offers happiness for the same price as a plane with miserably tight seats and a lower happiness score.
And roominess is one of the quickest routes to in-flight happiness. In a recent report, Routehappy listed Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue and US Airways, respectively, as having the most U.S. domestic flights on which regular economy passengers could find seats with 32 inches or more of legroom.
An aircraft's age, seat comfort, onboard entertainment, in-flight Wi-Fi, airline lounges and flier reviews all can affect a plane's happiness score. Surprisingly, though, Walton said an older plane can be more comfortable than a new plane, especially when airlines choose to cram the most seats possible into coach on newer planes. Southwest's new Boeing 737-800s and its older 737-300s both have more legroom. Unfortunately, because Southwest isn't an airline partner, Routehappy can't include Southwest flights in a flight search.
So we can be only so happy.
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