Big Changes Ahead In E-Ticketing
E-tickets have become very
popular, with airlines reporting usage rates of up to 60 percent.
They are easy, convenient, and normally hassle-free. Using e-tickets
eliminates the worry of losing or forgetting your ticket.
Nonetheless, there are some upcoming changes regarding e-ticketing
that travelers need to be aware of.
Fees for Paper
Airlines are reaping big savings from e-tickets.
It is estimated that an airline can save anywhere from $8 to $15 per
e-ticket, versus the cost of issuing paper tickets. Multiply that by
millions and you get the picture. To encourage the flying public to
book more e-tickets, one airline is charging (literally) into new
territory. American Airlines announced earlier this month that it
will implement a $10 fee per passenger on some paper tickets at its
U.S. and Canadian locations, in order to recoup the cost of paper
tickets. The airline said the fee applies only to customers who
purchase air travel on American and American Eagle through the
AA.com website, American Airlines reservations centers, at travel
centers, and at airports. American said that it would waive the fee
under certain circumstances; for example, the fee does not apply to
passengers who pay full fare, on tickets issued for Executive
Platinum members, or on tickets purchased through travel agents.
Some experts warn it is only a matter of time before other airlines
follow American's lead. Nevertheless, American's step is not the
only big change in e-ticketing.
E-Tickets for Keeps After
Currently, if you book an e-ticket through a
travel agency, you may request to have it converted to a paper
ticket. However, after June 1, travel agencies will no longer be
able to change e-tickets to paper tickets if they are on an Air Transport Association (ATA) member carrier.
ATA member carriers include Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska, Aloha,
America West, American, American Trans Air, Continental, Delta,
Hawaiian, KLM, Mexicana, Midwest Express, Northwest, Southwest, TWA,
United, and US Airways. The reason is that the Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) [in
conjunction with the ATA] is implementing new rules regarding
e-ticketing. Once an e-ticket is produced, it is final—with no
exceptions. Global Reservations Systems (GDS) such as Sabre,
Worldspan, and Apollo will be programmed to no longer allow travel
agents the ability to convert it to paper. However, individual
airlines can convert e-tickets to paper if a customer requests it.
So why the change? Currently, if a travel agent needs to
cancel or change an e-ticket reservation, they would have to print
out a flight coupon in order to document the transaction. According
to Allan Mutén, Director of Corporate Communications for ARC, "The
practice of printing out paper flight coupons for the sole purpose
of using them to cancel out the ticket defeats the intent behind
'going paperless' in the first place." That being said, after June
1, travel agents' GDS systems will be provided with a confirmation
number (known as the ET/REA, or Electronic Ticket/Refund Exchange
Authorization) that provides confirmation that the refund or
exchanged transaction has not been used, and is eligible for
exchange or refund.
Mutén goes on to say, "The true value of
e-tickets comes from eliminating unnecessary paper wherever possible
in favor of the efficiencies and economies of electronic records.
For travel agents and airlines alike, the 'accountable ticket stock'
that is used for paper flight coupons represents a significant
E-Tickets & Airline Strikes
advances in e-ticketing make sense in terms of cost cutting and
convenience. Nevertheless, holding an e-ticket on a carrier with
labor problems can be a major inconvenience. Currently, both United
and American are having contentious negotiations with labor (United
with its flight attendants and American with its flight attendants
and mechanics). If these issues are not resolved, it could lead to
strikes this spring and summer.
Customers holding e-tickets
at a striking carrier are at a disadvantage, because e-tickets are
not negotiable documents. On the other hand, paper tickets are
negotiable documents, and in the event of a strike would be accepted
by other carriers, but only on a stand-by basis. Mutén states, "With
the current talk about labor action and strike threats, some concern
understandable. If an e-ticket has to be transferred to
another airline, transfer to paper is, at this time, necessary." He
goes on to say, "An individual airline can re-enable the print
functionality [for travel agents] if there are compelling reasons to
do so, e.g., massive cancellations and re-accommodations
necessitated by, for example, labor action."
In the end, if
you are thinking of flying one of the carriers with labor problems,
it is probably wise to travel with a paper ticket. On the other
hand, if you are flying other carriers without labor issues,
e-tickets shouldn't be a problem.
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