Travel by definition is not static — it's being on the move, with changing locations and changing perspectives. In a new series, Travel + Leisure is profiling some of the game changers in the travel sphere that are taking innovation on the road.
Technology has an incredible impact on travel, and for everything that's visible to leisure travelers — like real-time traffic updates or in-flight Wi-Fi — there's much more going on behind the scenes.
Jaivin Anzalota knows that well. As the chief product officer at Routehappy, a content platform for flight shopping, he works on products that directly affect the air travel experience. In fact, you've probably used or even benefited from Routehappy's products, even if you're not familiar with the name.
As part of our series highlighting travel innovators, we asked Anzalota about what he's been working on — and what he's excited to see in the travel space the future.
T+L: How would you describe what Routehappy does?
Jaivin Anzalota: “Routehappy delivers rich merchandising content, like photos, videos, icons, descriptions for specific search results across consumer or travel agent channels, so consumers can make smart decisions. Whether it’s airline direct website, a meta search website like Google Flights, an OTA like Expedia or a corporate booking tool like Egencia, Routehappy works with all consumer touch points across the distribution landscape of air travel.
“What Routehappy realized was that flight shopping today, doesn’t tell the full story — it focuses on price and schedule, hiding unique product and service options that airlines invest in to differentiate their offerings. Routehappy offers airlines and travel companies the ability to show the full picture to consumers at the time of purchase ... Consumers no longer have to ask, ‘Does my flight have Wi-Fi?’ or, ‘Is food provided on my flight and is it free or for purchase?’
T+L: What about Routehappy is innovative?
“We are able to offer specific targeted rich content by cabin, aircraft subfleet, route, time of day, duration — to name a few. So, consumers only see compelling, relevant content about the exact flight they are looking at ... The flight shopping ecosystem has been slow to innovate and catch up to other industries that have merchandising and targeting down to a science, but we are excited to see the industry slowly taking steps to progress and come out of the dark ages of merchandising. With each use case and integration of our content we are better able to champion the need for change, especially given the positive gains in conversion, customer satisfaction and upsell our products are providing. Consumers want a better shopping experience when purchasing flights, airlines want the ability to differentiate and showcase their innovation and investment and travel companies want the ability to provide a better product for their consumers. We’re excited to be leading the industry and transforming flight shopping.”
T+L: How do you approach change in your work?
“Change is inevitable during the product development lifecycle. We embrace this fact by running product iterations weekly, focusing on delivering incremental improvements while working toward broader long-term goals. Having a small focused product team also helps us maneuver quickly as the needs of the business and industry change ... With the advent of new onboard products and experiences, we are constantly challenged to evolve the way we think about our products.”
T+L: How do you see technology impacting travel?
“Technology is improving the end-to-end travel experience in many ways, from richer and more convenient booking tools to improved onboard experiences. In the near-term, travel technology is evolving toward enabling flight shopping applications to showcase product differences beyond price and schedule to the onboard experience and ticket choices offered. Consumers expect these kind of rich shopping experiences in other verticals, like electronics, clothing, and hotels. As the capabilities of travel technology reach parity with other verticals we can expect to see more advanced merchandising take shape, like personalized travel offers based on unique preferences or requirements ... The days of forcing consumers to wade through 1,000 flight combinations based on departure time and price will soon become a relic of the past. Consumers expect more from technology and in the not too distant future I see flight shopping applications that can interpret my needs and preferences providing the best options quickly in a seamless and frictionless experience.”
T+L: How has your own travel affected how you see the products you work on?
“When traveling I can’t help but analyze the experience and relate it back to how we collect and present information. Prior to Routehappy, choosing a flight felt like a crapshoot, often agonizing over my choices not knowing whether I was making the best decision. I would often go out of my way to stick with carriers I had flown with in the past, believing that would ensure the best experience. Routehappy has changed the way I view flying, from something I used to spend hours researching and worrying about to being an informed decision-making process that I can feel confident in. Not surprisingly, onboard amenities and product offerings now weigh heavily in my decision making and planning.
“For example, I often work on flights so I opt for carriers with the best Wi-Fi available. When I know my entertainment and connectivity options are limited, I plan accordingly and sync files before boarding. Or, if food isn’t available I plan a meal at the airport. Traveling can be hectic for the most experienced travelers among us but removing variables from the process has certainly helped me improve my approach to travel. On the flip side of that, if I am traveling with my children I want to know if I have seatback entertainment or USB ports to charge their devices keep them distracted and me less stressed!
T+L: What other innovations — either by individuals or companies — have you seen in the travel industry that you think are exciting?
“The latest innovations surrounding onboard experience are exciting. A big trend right now is airlines retrofitting older aircraft to new high-tech standards, making them appear roomier and modern. While the core of the aircraft remains unchanged, everything from the lighting to overhead bins and windows are getting a major face lift. Airlines are removing the old gloomy fluorescent yellow lighting and adding LED mood lighting, removing small overhead bins and adding pivot bins that can hold far more bags. These changes have the potential to improve the experience of flying dramatically for all passengers.”
T+L: How do you see travel changing in the next 5-10 years?
“In the next five to 10 years, flight shopping will de-commoditize significantly and be a much richer and personalized experience, enabling consumers to be matched with the right flight and ancillary products based on personal preferences and requirements ... While I’m not sure if the glamourous days of air travel will make a resurgence, I can say with confidence that with more consumer choice and richer shopping experience will lead to more enjoyable and predictable journeys.”
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length.