Inside the United Airlines content deal with Routehappy

United Airlines is the first of several airlines that have agreed to use the “heavy data elements” that have been collected by the New York company Routehappy.

For almost a year, Routehappy has been promoting its Hub, a customized platform that airlines can use to manage and distribute rich, descriptive, and visual details targeted down to individual flights or routes.

Airlines do this by using the startup’s rich content standard, which it calls the Universal Product Attribute (UPA).

United will create UPAs within the Routehappy Hub and integrate them into results, emails, and merchandizing offers. Routehappy tracks data United doesn’t have, like partially available wifi, as well as data on United’s code-share flights.

The airline will also authorize select third-party distributors (e.g. Sabre, Expedia, Google, Kayak, etc.) to integrate the rich merchandising content it creates via Routehappy into their results.

Scott Wilson, vice president, ecommerce & merchandising at United, answered some Tnooz questions about this deal via email.

What are some of the UPAs that United plans to display using the Routehappy Hub?

We’ll be creating our own UPAs through Routehappy Hub. We’ll be able to create, combine and distribute content by aircraft, cabin, flight, airport, fare, segment, channel and other criteria, for display in all of our channels.

What about retailing and ancillaries?

We’ll also be integrating ways to better merchandise flights and product search results. It will help us manage our upgrade offers, reservations, check-in emails and such.

Some examples of UPAs, please?

United operates more than 700 mainline aircraft including new Boeing 787 and the 737-900ER aircraft and new Embraer E175 regional aircraft for many United Express flights. On any one of its flights served by 787s, we may want to show off features like wifi access and food, so we would create UPAs for each.

Here are some sample UPAs we may use:

  • Complimentary meals and free beer and wine on flights to and from South America.
  • United BusinessFirst seats recline 180 degrees into a flat-bed seat.

When will United begin?

Integrating Routehappy products is on our product roadmap and we are focusing first on ensuring our customers will have access to a full set of UPAs — full, targeted merchandising content on all of our flights, while developing plans to integrate amenities and UPAs on later this year.

Why did United decide to use the Routehappy Hub?
Routehappy helps showcase some of the things that set us apart from other airlines.

How will United benefit from this partnership?

The level of targeting available means that we can show the right product features to the right customers at the right time.

united routehappy hub meta result UPA

Airlines use Routehappy’s dashboard to update their content and decide who gets access to what. It also offers an API to deliver the UPAs.

For instance, travel tech company Sabre has agreed via Routehappy to integrate amenities and airline rich content into its Sabre Red Workspace for agents. Google been implementing RouteHappy details of wifi and other facilities available on flights into its flight metasearch results.

Routehappy CEO Robert Albert told Tnooz:

“Because there are so many places where flights are sold, there needs to be one standard system that everyone uses to get their product messages out to consumers wherever they are shopping.”

Albert, who describes himself as an aviation geek, said he’s excited about the possibilities for airlines and global distribution systems (GDSs).

Although most airlines have large IT departments, they can only justify a partial investment to merchandising because they have other priorities, he said.

“By taking this over, we can build a product for an airline or a distributor that’s better than their own. Plus the entire industry gets access to their best products because we focus on marketing content distribution.”

As a refresher, Routehappy’s two products are scores and amenities and its content hub. Scores and amenities create unbiased flight scores, by cabin, for every flight in the world, looking at things including aircraft type, seat, inflight amenities and trip duration.

“We have a team that has spent the past five years triangulating this information on 225 airlines,” said Albert. “We track the amenities and match them to our global flight center so consumers can know what they’re going to get on their next flight.”

Routehappy uses hundreds of disparate sources — including websites, press releases, vendors, journalists and frequent flyers — to gather the flight information, then double and triple checks it, said Albert. “We’ve also built databases and algorithms to capture data and keep it current.”

“I’ve worked in the industry and have been frustrated by the sector’s inability to sell its product effectively. You can see product information at sites like Amazon, hotels, real estate and restaurants. Why can’t airline flight shopping also be like that?”

“Airlines have hundreds of things they want to show to customers. Our hub allows to create, manage and distribute the amenities they offer. That can include things like video, photos and cabin tours. What’s offered on a [Boeing] 787 flight that leaves at eight in the morning will be different than what’s offered on a 777 departing in the evening.”

Albert thinks a virtuous circle will start spinning, once the non-commodity content is made available to consumers in a readily-digestible, easy-to-find format. When all the relevant details are presented, consumers will begin to care, said Albert.

“We hope more airlines will offer more useful and richer experiences and tailor it to consumers. There are so many possibilities in tailoring content once airlines have a tool to play with.”

Tnooz first profiled the startup three years ago. Last September, the startup landed $3 million in Series B funding.

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About the Writer :: Benét Wilson

Benét J. Wilson is a guest editorial contributor. She runs Aviation Queen, an aviation/travel writing freelance business. A veteran journalist based in Baltimore, Md., Wilson writes on topics including commercial aviation, aircraft manufacturing, airports, security, and the airline passenger experience.



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