Airlines Agree To Stop Issuing Paper Tickets by 2008

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The New York Sun

The world’s leading airlines have agreed to stop issuing paper tickets from January 1, 2008. From then on, the e-ticket will be the norm.

“It spares passengers a lot of hassle at the airport,” one airline executive said yesterday.

The e-ticket is no more than a reference number which, when used in tandem with a credit card or passport, enables a machine to issue a boarding pass. The system is already in common use at airports as airlines look to slash costs. According to one industry estimate, each conventional ticket costs the industry almost $9.

But it is not only the cost of tickets that has triggered the move toward e-ticketing. The system appeals to airports as well. Issuing a boarding pass at a checkin desk is time consuming. They would rather passengers passed their time in the duty-free shops spending money.

With the system becoming compulsory across the industry after December 31 next year, every passenger’s itinerary will be stored electronically.A change in travel plans will not entail a series of trips to travel agents and ticketing desks, instead the information will be updated via the Internet.

The industry believes this flexibility will appeal in particular to business travelers who, while accounting for only 6% of air passengers, take 80% of journeys.

The airlines set out their plans for a paperless future at a meeting in Paris yesterday. There was concern among some, especially in Africa and South America, that the system could be open to fraud.

One executive from a South American airline said there had been examples of unscrupulous staff checking in friends to fly for free, while passengers who bought tickets were grounded.

The first tickets were handwritten notes, which by the 1960s had become a booklet with each leg of a trip ticketed by a flimsy coupon.

In the late 1970s, the use of computers led to the dot matrix printing of tickets and in the 1990s airlines started using a cardboard ticket with a magnetic strip that contains relevant passenger information. Though this speeded the embarkation process, today it is thought cumbersome by many airlines.

The New York Sun

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