To make the cheapest, fastest, and most convenient travel arrangements, ambitious laymen must juggle a myriad of complications: seasonal price patterns, frequent flier miles, stopovers, and these days, carbon footprints.
RouteRank.com could ease the minds of eco-conscious travelers. The Swiss website, founded in 2006 but only expanded to the United States earlier this year, is already successful in Europe. Backed by big-name corporate clients such as the Swiss government, Nokia, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), RouteRank plans to take on established industry hotshots Priceline and Orbitz.
The site works a lot like its competition. Users enter dates and destinations, then search for ticket options. RouteRank’s results are based on several criteria: means (plane, train, car, even public transportation), time, carbon dioxide emissions, and price. Users can then rank the options by criteria most important to them.
Let’s say you want to plan a trip from Chicago to Boston for Columbus Day weekend, leaving on October 8 at 9 a.m. RouteRank suggests 23 options. According to the site, driving the whole way would take more than 16 hours, release 900 pounds of CO2, and cost $438.79. If you add customized car parameters, those numbers grow more exact. The fastest option is a direct American Airlines flight on October 7 at 1 in the morning. The smallest carbon footprint includes taking Chicago’s subway to O’Hare International Airport – that pairing is the cheapest as well.
RouteRank isn’t the best option for travelers looking to cash in on loyalty programs through specific airlines, or for those interested in using the name-your-own price system of other companies.
It does, however, search flights from cities near the original takeoff and destination points. For the Chicago to Boston trip, you could also travel from Milwaukee to Providence or Hartford, where you might find cheaper or greener itineraries.
Travelers can also click to offset their CO2 emissions. To make up for the 656 pounds emitted by driving to O’Hare and flying to Boston, you could, for example, “support local production, distribution, and use of solar cookers and efficient cookers in south-west Madagascar” with a 7 euro ($9.50) donation to RouteRank’s non-profit partner, Myclimate.
Users don't book flights from RouteRank directly. After picking a trip, the company directs you to other website that will sell the specific tickets. RouteRank uses Michelin for car travel, and for flights, Swoodoo, a German travel aggregator that searches Expedia, CheapTickets, and 700 mostly European airlines – a potential downside for American users. It’s an issue the company plans to fix soon, says founder Jochen Mundinger in an email.
RouteRank makes it easy to see options, but it’s still up to travelers to decide what’s most important to them – time, money, or the environment.