We discuss how the startup, Routehappy, works, and why it will be a company to watch in 2014

On my last flight, a four-hour trip between JFK and the Dominican Republic, I sat next to a toddler, my knees squashed at a 90 degree angle between my backpack and the chair in front of me. I forgot to buy breakfast before boarding, so I survived on tomato juice, wishing a peanut would fall through the window. As any flier knows, air travel has departed from the luxury era of the past, when cocktails came free and were served with a hot meal and a smile.

In many ways, this has complicated the way travelers search for flights. Now, they must choose between a low price and more amenities, while sacrificing inches of seat pitch or an extra blanket for a fewer dollar signs.

In steps Routehappy, a travel site that searches and books flights according to the on-board experience rather than departure times or prices. While Routehappy does factor those ingredients in, it also helps you make your decision based on the amount of legroom or the quality of the entertainment. Think of it as a Zagat guide for planes.

How does it do this? According to its website, the startup uses a team of data experts to create Flightpad – a database of seat layouts, plane types, travel time, and extra amenities. Then, it assigns happiness scores for every flight on Earth. While there are countless travel search tools out there, Routehappy works differently because it addresses and tries to combat a universal source of consumer pain – unbearable planes.

The founder, Robert Albert, told Expert Flyer that it defines happiness as a mixture of individual user experiences combined with hard data on everything from seats to techservices, to aircraft quality. “Fliers care about their experience,” he explained. “We’re filling the important gap between price and product that has driven consumer frustration for the last decade.”

According to Mashable, Albert started at the online travel agency, Site59, then worked at Travelocity when it was bought. But fed up with the lack of information and comparison tools for flights, he went ahead and built his own site. It worked. According to TechCrunch, it received $1.5 million in funding from High Peaks Venture Partners, Contour Venture Partners, and Vocap Ventures. It launched in 2012 and now boasts a slew of additional filter options as well as a reviews section on flights and airports from real travelers. In March, it teamed up with Priceline to integrate its search mechanism into Priceline’s app.

This company could change the way we fly. From a consumer’s perspective, fliers, even seasoned ones, can start making better decisions. More importantly, it will force airlines to improve the in-flight experience rather than simply focusing on price or departure time. It also encourages innovation in an industry that has remained stagnant for decades. Hopefully, it will prompt the creation of bigger seats and better food beyond business class.

For this reason, in 2014, Routehappy will be a company to watch. Not only does it have a solid backbone of technology to support itself, like Flightpad and an app, it also has a sturdy team of people. In fact, Albert told Amadeus that a startup’s success comes from the quality of the team. “One thing I’ve really learned in the development of Routehappy is that you have to have people who are adaptable and who know the domain incredibly well,” he explained. The product’s utility is key though. He explains that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, you have to be solving real problems, zeroing in on crucial needs, and working to address them. Only then, will you satisfy your customers.