E-Tickets Only Starting June 1
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Mark your calendars: In 100 days, airlines around the world plan to stop issuing paper tickets.
The International Air Transport Association, a trade group representing 240 airlines, announced yesterday that starting June 1, its members will use only electronic tickets. The airlines, which include the big U.S. carriers, account for 94 percent of international air traffic.
Exceptions will be made for small airlines that can't afford new computer systems, but they'll have to pay for the privilege.
"It's about simplifying the business," said Steve Lott, the association's spokesman. The change will make it easier and cheaper for airlines to issue tickets, he said.
Once, travelers purchased airline tickets through travel agents, and paper tickets were mailed to their homes. If you lost your paper ticket or if it was stolen, you could lose your flight.
Today, more people use the Internet to book flights, and the reservations are stored in the airlines' computers. Travelers can print e-tickets at home or at airports. If you lose an e-ticket, you can print another.
"It's the convenience -- to be able to book a ticket and get my boarding pass without waiting in line or talking to a person," said Josko Silobrcic of Boston, who was using the US Airways check-in kiosk at Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon.
The IATA is the clearinghouse for paper tickets, distributing ticket stock that airlines and travel agents order from specialized printers. On June 1, it will stop that service.
"It is a hard-and-fast deadline," Lott said.
E-tickets aren't as prevalent in other countries as they are in the United States, where they are used in 97 percent of air travel. In Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union, that figure is only 54 percent because of legislation that banned e-tickets until last year. Some airlines, which are typically small and fly to remote regions, will now have to choose whether to invest in new computer systems or begin buying and processing paper tickets themselves. Some of the smallest airlines may do so because it will be cheaper, Lott said.
For most major airlines, e-tickets will cut costs. While a paper ticket costs $10 to create and process, an e-ticket costs $1. The switch will save the industry $3 billion a year, according to the IATA.
If passengers do not have access to the Internet or printers, they can continue to purchase tickets by phone or through travel agents. Instead of receiving paper tickets in advance, customers will be asked to pick them up at airline counters or kiosks in airports.