Member-airlines of IATA switch to e-tickets

Monday, June 2, 2008, 19:55 by Aviation Correspondent

Around 240 member-airlines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have done away with paper tickets and switched to total e-ticketing.

The new procedure came into effect on June 1, 2008.

IATA will not issue any more paper tickets, but those issued by travel agents before June 1, 2008, are still valid.

The International Air Transport Association is an international industry trade group of airlines, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where the International Civil Aviation Organisation is also headquartered.

The main objective of IATA is to assist airline companies to achieve lawful competition and uniformity in prices. The organisation also represents, leads and serves the airline industry in general. Currently, IATA comprises 94% of scheduled international air traffic.

IATA says it is contacting about 60,000 travel agents in over 200 countries to collect all the unused tickets still in the system. These unused tickets will be securely reclaimed, destroyed and recycled.

“An era has ended,” Giovanni Bisignani, director-general of the International Air Transport Association, was quoted as commenting on the new system. “If you have a paper ticket, it’s time to donate it to a museum.”

IATA had automated the process of ticketing in 1972.

However, in 2005, IATA was still printing 285 million tickets a year. Each ticket cost about US $10 to process. The electronic ticket, which arrived in 1994, costs only $US1 to process.

In addition to US $3 billion that airlines can save, consumers benefit from e-tickets since these tickets cannot be lost and they can be easily changed or reissued without having to go to a travel agent or airline office.

According to a spokesman of the International Air Transport Association, airlines worldwide, which are weighed down by skyrocketing prices of aviation fuel, will find all-electronic bookings 90% cheaper to handle.

The International Air Transport Association, the main clearinghouse connecting airlines and travel agents, which used to handle 340 million paper tickets a year, will now track all bookings online. Passengers will get a printout.

Electronic tickets already comprise about 95% of bookings, brought about by a surge in sales of tickets via internet sales and airlines seeking to cut $3 billion a year in global processing costs, according to analysts. Virtual tickets have many advantages compared to paper tickets: they allow online check-in, simplify reservation changes and they cannot be lost.

The website quoted the spokesman of the International Air Transport Association as saying: “Electronic tickets cost about $1 each to process.  Paper tickets are 10 times more expensive to handle, as they need to be physically moved between the travel agency, airport and airline. Getting rid of the paper makes everything more efficient.”

Resorting to e-tickets will also save about 50,000 trees a year, according to IATA, as around 240 airline-members account for about 94% of scheduled international airline traffic.

IATA’s changeover from paper tickets to electronic tickets is the culmination of a 4-year programme, according to the organisation.

As of the end of April 2008, according to the International Air Transport Association, most regions of the world were issuing electronic tickets for nearly 85% of bookings. Countries of the former Soviet Union were lagging behind in this regard because of laws requiring paper tickets.

Airlines can continue to offer paper tickets through channels other than the International Air Transport Association.