‘We’re In It For The Long Haul’ — CheapAir CEO on Dropping Coinbase [Interview]
Bitcoinist caught up with CheapAir CEO Jeff Klee to find out why exactly his company just switched from Coinbase to BTCPay Server.
CheapAir.com has decided to double down in its support of Bitcoin 00 at a time when many retailers, including Expedia, have made the difficult decision to drop Bitcoin payments due to problems with merchant processors like Coinbase and BitPay.
[M]ost industries will have to come along and start expanding acceptable payments beyond fiat currencies.
Bitcoinist spoke with CEO Jeff Klee who explained why CheapAir decided to switch to an open-source bitcoin payment processor, the future plans to integrate Lightning Network, and how bitcoin has strengthened the company’s relations with its customer base.
Bitcoinist: You were one of the first major companies to accept Bitcoin since 2014. How has your experience been thus far with BTC payments compared to traditional methods in terms of fees, user experience, etc?
Jeff Klee: Every new payment method has its own challenges, but accepting Bitcoin has been quite a positive experience for CheapAir overall. Any technical challenges we’ve faced have been overcome, and have mostly been met with patience and an overall team mentality from the BTC community. We have a level of engagement with our BTC customers that is remarkable in the travel industry and we even were able to crowdsource solutions to our processor issue.
Bitcoinist: Why did you opt for BTCPay Server instead of BitPay, the most popular merchant processor in the world?
Jeff Klee: The free and open-source BTCPay server allowed us to have a more custom solution and maintain more control/oversight of the processing experience for CheapAir.com.
Bitcoinist: Why are you against the controversial BIP 70 that BitPay requires its merchants to use?
Jeff Klee: It wasn’t so much that CheapAir was against BIP 70. We were looking for a solution and when we initially broached the conversation with our Bitcoin customers, we found a not insignificant portion of them had reservations about BIP70. It challenged us to find a solution that would be work for everyone.
Bitcoinist: How does your experience with BTCPay compare to using Coinbase merchant services?
Jeff Klee: It’s still quite early. We’ve only been using BTCPay for a short time. However, we’re really pleased with how BTCPay is working for Bitcoin customers and CheapAir so far.
Bitcoinist: BTCPay also supports Lightning Network payments. Would CheapAir support this as well when LN matures and comes out of beta?
Jeff Klee: CheapAir is always looking ahead and working to offer innovative user experiences and processes. While we don’t have plans to do so at this time,
we certainly wouldn’t rule it out [Lightning Network] in the future, especially if our customers tell us it’s something they would like to see us accept.
If we already have the infrastructure in place to accept it, all the better!
Bitcoinist: Expedia has reportedly dropped supporting Bitcoin payments as of late. Does integrating the latest tech like BTCPay Server give you a competitive advantage? In other words, can peer-to-peer payments enable CheapAir to offer customers lower rates compared to your competitors?
Jeff Klee: The travel ecosystem is highly competitive, it’s true. While BTCPay Server customers may not see a huge difference in prices at CheapAir.com over other online travel agencies, what we can offer is unparalleled customer service and a willingness to be a true partner with BTC customers.
We got into the digital game early (2013), and we’re still one of the trailblazers. We like to think we’ve built a relationship with our customers that goes beyond a few bucks one way or the other on an individual ticket price. Plus, as you mentioned,
others who have put their toe in the water have (in some cases) decided to get out of the game. We’re in it for the long haul.
Bitcoinist: Where do you see crypto payments and the travel industry in 5 years?
Jeff Klee: We do think that most industries will have to come along and start expanding acceptable payments beyond fiat currencies. It’s not surprising that smaller, more nimble companies like ours can sometimes get out in front of legacy companies – the complicated infrastructure challenges make it tough to make this kind of leap early.
The longer crypto currencies are around, the more stable they seem and the more likely we’ll see additional buy-in from other travel retailers.
Before long, crypto will just be another form of payment. It’s going to happen. We’re glad we’ve been a pioneer. It’s been an unequivocal win/win for our customers and CheapAir.
Have you tried using bitcoin payments on CheapAir? Tell us about your experience below!
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.