Skift Take

Chase Travel and American Express Travel are among the top handful of leisure travel sellers in the U.S. That's mostly good news for online travel agency partners, as well.

Chase Travel has at least one asset that CapitalOne doesn’t have — Chase owns its own technology while CapitalOne relies to some extent on Hopper.

Meanwhile, Chase Travel is battling with American Express Travel, and is on track to meet its 2023 goal of $10 billion in travel sales. In 2022, American Express Travel did an estimated $9.2 billion and Chase was on its tail at $8.5 billion, according to the Travel Weekly Power List.

“So we’re right at that number and continue to grow,” Jason Wynn, head of travel at JPMorgan Chase told Skift. “So I feel confident that we will grow and be at $15 billion by 2025.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Wynn talked about Chase Travel’s acquisitions of cxLoyalty in 2021 and Frosch Travel Group in 2022, and the advantages that gives Chase over competitors.

He also discussed Chase’s partnership with Expedia on hotels, why Chase feels the necessity to open money-losing airport lounges with free perks, and the advantages that come with co-branded card relationships with partners such as Southwest, United and British Airways.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length:

Where does Chase Travel stand today?
Jason Wynn: I think we’re still well within the top five ranks of U.S. leisure [including Expedia, Priceline, American Express and Flight Centre]. Our growth continues to be on track. We said in an investor day in 2022 that we would be at around $10 billion in sales in 2023. We have hit that mark or are expected to hit that mark with a couple of weeks left in the year. So I feel confident that we will grow and be at $15 billion by 2025.

How have the acquisitions of cxLoyalty and Frosch worked out for Chase?

Wynn: The reason for both of those specific acquisitions was we had this idea that we wanted to sit at the intersection of high tech and high touch. And we did it. While there are a number of players that we would categorize as on the high tech side and a number we’ve categorized on the high touch, we didn’t see anyone really doing an incredible job with both. And so the acquisition approach obviously gives us that high touch and being able to have access to high-caliber, high-tenured agents who are focused on delivering the unexpected, and then cxLoyalty gave us the booking platform.

So owning the end-to-end point-of-sale experience is something that if you look at our immediate competitive set is somewhat unique to us. We have full ownership of that. It’s a big expense, and you have to be committed to maintaining it. But we saw that as absolutely critical to delivering on the customer experience and being able to be nimble too.

Why would you need online travel agencies as partners if you have Frosch in-house?

Wynn: You’re not going to be able to go replicate Expedia or Priceline with hundreds of thousands of hotels very, very easily. So for us, they’re great partners. We continue to leverage Expedia in particular on the hotel side as our as our hotel source. We relaunched our hotel program called
The Edit by Chase Travel. These are direct deals that we’ve negotiated. We’ll continue to expand that where we need to deliver the right level of content. But we envision having Expedia as part of that equation going forward.

How do you get airline content?

Wynn: The content source for that is the GDS (global distribution system), at this point. We have our own negotiated rates. Frosch has very deep ties and relationships with the airlines. Our co-brand partnerships (United, Southwest, Air Canada and British Airways) also give us a direct foray into having deeper opportunities as well.

What do you think of what CapitalOne is up to these days in travel with their partnership with Hopper and appeal to younger generations? And how do you see the competition with other credit card companies?

Wynn: I won’t speak directly to any one of them. I will say the focus on the younger generation, and as they become a higher percentage of the overall travel volume, is smart. It’s what we are looking to do as well. It is part of the reason that we acquired cxLoyalty so that we own our own tech, we can get customer feedback and be able to iterate and test and learn more as that new buyer has a different set of needs and behaviors.

It’s also the reason for some of the other Chase acquisitions, for example, The Infatuation, which is our dining discovery platform specifically targeted to Gen Zs and millennials.

What about getting into fintech and price freezes like Hopper and CapitalOne have done?

Wynn: I’m interested to see how that plays out within the industry. There are a lot of things that the airlines have done; change fees have gone away, you now have credits for unused tickets. So I know that others are seeing success with that. I just would want to watch and see a little bit. See if they stand the test of time.

Some analysts say that the the online travel agencies are making a mistake by doing so many of these partnerships with banks and with others, and that they’re nurturing their competitors. I’m sure you agree with that, right?

Wynn: Listen, they are making decisions based off their business model. I believe it’s true that the partner businesses, at least for the Expedia, is a fast-growing business. The profits they’re generating from that enterprise allows them to reinvest in their core business and that seems like a good thing to me.

How do you view Chase in the competitive landscape among other credit card companies?

Wynn: Owning our technology is a big advantage in being able to build out the point-of-sale that the customer needs going forward. Also just our scale: We have over 80 million customers in the U.S., 63 million digitally active customers. Those give us a huge advantage and lend itself to the first party data that we have, which is just significantly bigger than anyone else in our competitive set. And then the strength of our rewards currency is just an incredibly valuable asset for us.

What’s is the upside and challenges in doing airport lounges?

Wynn: If you want to compete for the top travel customer, it’s become table stakes in the card space. So for us, it’s a matter of making sure that we can meet that expectation and also try to differentiate ourselves. So we’re very much focused on creating lounges that bring forward the local flavor.

A great example of that is Boston, where we work with a local chef who’s providing all the food in there. There are local Boston beers at the bar. And we’ll look to extend those concepts as we build out our strategy going forward.

We’ve announced the locations that will be coming forward with in the next couple of years. Our flagship plans will be in New York LaGuardia. We’ve announced Phoenix, Philadelphia, Dallas, Las Vegas, San Diego, and we also have a terrace in Austin. We’ll continue to look for other opportunities.

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Tags: airport lounges, american express, banks, british airways, capital one, capital one travel, chase, credit cards, expedia, hopper, jp morgan chase, online travel newsletter, priceline, southwest, united

Photo credit: Chase Travel is chasing American Express for the top dog among U.S. leisure sales for credit card companies. Source: Ajay Suresh/Wikimedia Ajay Suresh / Wikimedia Commons

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