A few weeks ago, I found myself wandering the streets of NYC before attending a Kimpton event. My friend John (who I actually met in Tokyo for the first time) sent me a message on Twitter telling me that he moved to NYC and invited me to drop by and check out the RouteHappy HQ to try a little product demo.
In short, RouteHappy is a search engine that ranks and rates flights by how “happy” you’d be by taking amenities into consideration such as lie-flat beds, outlets, wifi, extra legroom, etc. It’s definitely a way for the “non-expert” traveler to know what they’re getting without having to know technical aircraft lingo and configurations (example: Not all Singapore Airlines business class seats are the same; there are significant differences between the A380 and regional Boeing 777 business class products…for that matter, there are major differences between several different Singapore B777 configurations).
I fortunately was able to fly both business class products on my trip to Australia with my Dad in March (be on the lookout for a post comparing the two). Only because I happen to be somewhat in the “know” about planes (it was a slow and long process to learn), I knew exactly what to expect from both flights upon booking. However, not everyone can spot the difference right away when it comes to picking the best award flight. This is where RouteHappy comes into play.
In this post, I’ll present you with some examples on how you can utilize both the award search engine (in this case, United.com) and RouteHappy.com to find your perfect redemption.
First, I played with a simple domestic redemption from EWR to IAH for next week.
Say I was a traveler who wanted to depart EWR between 4-6 PM, and I’ve narrowed it down to these two flights. They both require the same amount of miles and taxes (in my case, you can see a $25 “close-in” fee was added to the $2.50 taxes since I am searching within 21 days of departure, and I’m only a Premier Gold).
Flight #1 departs at 4:33 pm on a Boeing 757-200, and flight #2 departs at 5:23 pm on a 737-800. Now if you were like me 2 months ago, and didn’t know what the concrete differences between an internationally-configured 757-200 and 737-800 going from EWR to IAH were, you’d just pick one and be done with it.
While these are technically both the same price and the origin and destination are the same, there’s definitely a major plus to one of these two flights. One of them features full flat-bed seats, on-demand entertainment, and an abundance of power outlets. I don’t know about you, but knowing those things ahead of time would definitely make my flying experience a heck of a lot more enjoyable.
This tool also allows the traveler to not have to worry about what type of configuration the airline is using for a certain flight. In the case of United, they offer five different configuration variants of the B757-200. RouteHappy does the work for you and reports that this flight is scheduled to be flown by a B757-200 with the flat-bed, BusinessFirst product:
In this scenario, we got lucky, as most of United’s domestic 757-200 fleet does not feature flat beds, as they are only domestically-configured planes. It’s pretty clear that all of the inflight amenities are right there in front of you, so you’ll know exactly what you’ll be getting without having to call the airline or do further research. Plus, the 8.6 happiness score indicates that it’s a more enjoyable flight than flight #2, which scored a 7.5.
The next example I’ll run through is also a United.com award (can you guess my favorite loyalty program by now?). The next will be a search from SYD (Sydney) to SIN (Singapore) on Singapore Airlines, using the same date, June 6, 2013.
As you can see from the search results, there is plenty of saver award space on SQ212 and SQ242, which are both operated on a Boeing 777 aircraft. SQ222 is an A380-operated flight, and there is no award availability (boo hoo). Generally speaking, in most cases you cannot book Singapore A380 business class on a United award, though sometimes you’ll “luck out” when there is an equipment change.
That’s exactly what happened when Dad and I booked our award seats to Sydney last year when Singapore Airlines uncharacteristically released award space for business and first class seats on Transpacific routes on United.com. We were originally booked on a 777 (with great first class seats), but then we received the magical news that Singapore Airlines swapped out the Boeing for an A380 with Suites instead. The Suites and A380 business class both were awesome – can’t wait to share that reviews with you soon (man, I have a lot of catching up to do!).
Ok getting back on topic, plugging in the same travel dates for SYD-SIN on RouteHappy.com, here’s what you’ll come up with:
Obviously with a score of 9.5, you know the A380 flight is awesome. You can also see that you’ll get a full flat bed, plugs, direct aisle access, and on-demand entertainment. Too bad SQ222 is not available to book on United.com. With this information, right off the bat, you know ahead of time that you won’t be on an A380.
Instead, you’ll be on a 777, which is still a great (but slightly-dated) product and experience. Whether you’re flying on a Singapore Airlines 777 or A380 business class seat regardless, the service is impeccable, and you’ll definitely have a “happy” flight.
…Hey, at the end of the day any flight booked with points and miles is a happy flight, right?