After five years of experimentation and growth, the team behind Routehappy has hit upon a winning formula: rich content around flight options, placed across existing distribution channels. By providing a deeper knowledge base to travelers (and those that serve them), the company is able to use detailed information to improve the traveler experience.

Most recently, Routehappy announced an integration with the Sabre Red Workspace. This brings rich content right into the flight shopping experience for travel consultants — a first in the GDS. Access to this information means that airlines will have a clear path to monetizing the full flight menu in the agency channel.

In conversation with CEO and founder Bob-Albert, I learned more about the company’s progress, what this integration means for travel providers, and his near-term view on the travel industry.

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since you founded Routehappy! When I first heard about the startup as a reporter for Tnooz, it was intriguing because airlines weren’t sharing much information about specific routes or equipment. It was always a bit of shuffle between seating websites and then back to the supplier site. How far have you come along in your vision to make every route happy?

We’ve moved far with more to go! Our mission to differentiate air travel has remained consistent. We’ve tried a few approaches including flyer reviews and dynamic ads and then settled on the right path to be a B2B supplier of data, content and tools to help airlines and distributors differentiate and better monetize flight shopping.

For those unfamiliar with your company, what products does Routehappy provide?

Our two products are Scores & Amenities and Routehappy Hub. Each are getting traction in the market globally. Our Scores & Amenities API provides two things. First, it’s a comprehensive amenity data flight including aircraft, seat, layout, Wi-Fi-entertainment, power, fresh food and relative duration. Second, it offers a fair, data-driven score for every flight or itinerary.

Routehappy Hub is a cloud platform for airlines to create and distribute standardized merchandising content in two formats: UPA (Universal Product Attribute) and UTA (Universal Ticket Attribute.) UPAs turn product attributes into targeted descriptive and visual merchandising content so airlines can better merchandise their products. UTAs turn fare rules into merchandising content so they can better merchandise their fares.

Expedia, KAYAK, Skyscanner, Google, Travix, Sabre and others are subscribers to our Scores & Amenities API. United, Delta, Cathay, Qantas, Emirates, Travix, Sabre and others are subscribers to Routehappy Hub.

Routehappy’s growth neatly tracks the rise in ancillary spend, and Routehappy raised $3 million last year with an eye to investing further in your Hub product. Explain how the Hub helps airlines.

Routehappy Hub helps airlines turn their brand and product attributes into easily distributable merchandising content. This content is highly targeted to flights and fares across all distribution channels. Right now, distributing rich content is chaotic for airlines, which have multiple channels, and for partners, which need consistent, reliable access to merchandising content. Routehappy Hub is a centralized source for that content. Our platform helps airlines create and distribute rich content to improve conversion and yield of their flight shopping products.

Branded fares and ancillaries have become a large part of the conversation when it comes to airlines. In many ways, this has been fortuitous for your company. What does the rise of branded fares mean for the airline industry?

Branded fares mean more choice for consumers. No more one size fits all. Overall, it’s a great thing. But branded fares require consistency and standardization so consumers can understand and compare ticket features. We see Routehappy playing a role with the introduction of UTAs.

And what about for those that serve travelers, such as agencies and corporate travel managers? How do branded fares impact those selling travel?

Branded fares give agencies and corporate travel managers a whole new level of complexity. they must process these options to understand and make sense of for travelers. It’s good news for them if they embrace it. Routehappy helps agencies, corporate travel managers and consumers directly with structured merchandising content. This content is integrated directly into flight shopping results on Sabre Red Workspace and directly on OTAs and metas.

Sabre just announced a partnership with Routehappy to place rich content within the travel consultant workflow. How does this change the experience within the Sabre Red Workspace?

Agents will have much easier access to airline rich content that better explains fare and product attributes. In addition to the classic view that agents love, the new Sabre Red Workspace smartly and efficiently integrates rich content within the classic view. The new workspace also offers an entirely graphical interface for new agents who may be more accustomed to consumer-grade tools. Routehappy’s content educates consultants so they can quickly and correctly inform travelers of available options.

Ancillaries continue to capture passenger spend. Meanwhile, airlines have started re-investing more in the on-board product. This creates competition among airlines not just for passenger dollars but passenger loyalty. If you ran an airline, what are 2-3 key components of your winning loyalty strategy?

My components would be:

  1. Enterprise focus on merchandising to improve product/market fit
  2. Authentic personalization (i.e. know/serve/market to customer deeply)
  3. Simplify every touchpoint

Let’s talk airports. Today, these transit hubs are much more than just places to catch a plane. How has the rise in “airports as a destination” informed the Routehappy experience?

An important driver in our creation of Routehappy Hub is that the passenger experience is broad and includes booking, preparation, airport and flight experiences. Airport comforts, services, amenities, and features are a critical component of the experience. We are currently encouraging airlines to focus on airport UPAs because there are so many unique selling points they could be using but generally don’t.

Airports also have a vested interest in the traveler experience. After all, a happy and relaxed traveler is more likely to shop. How do you see suppliers from different areas of the industry coming together in unique ways to put the traveler first?

I think Routehappy Hub and UPAs will include participation of stakeholders beyond airlines including airports, aircraft manufacturers and amenity providers. We’re in discussions to create co-op marketing funds from these parties which airlines can draw on to further promote product attributes from which many parties benefit.

Looking ahead to the evolution of the traveler experience over the next 3 years, what’s next? What can travelers expect from the industry in the coming years?

Here’s what I see ahead:

  • Differentiated offers including more ancillaries and branded fares within flight shopping
  • Merchandising content within flight shopping. So more rich, targeted descriptive, and visual content
  • New innovative products and services offered from airlines to further differentiate themselves
  • Significant cooperation among airlines, distributors, and platform to innovate together

Read more about the Routehappy integration with Sabre Red Workspace here.