Travelers Still Not Comfortable With E-tickets
(April 4, 2002)
(Updated March 8, 2003)
The International Air Transport Association (IATA)
estimates that, by the year 2005, 50 percent of all airline tickets
worldwide will be issued in the form of e-tickets. In the U.S., the
use of e-tickets is already over 50 percent. United, for example,
recently stated nearly 75 percent of its tickets are e-tickets, and
American estimates 65 percent of its tickets are
E-tickets are becoming more popular because they
simplify our trips as well as the ticket-issuing process. They never
get lost, are environmentally friendly (by saving trees), and save
the airline money. They also save us paper ticket fees. Many
travelers use them with no problems. Yet, according to the volumes
of e-mails I receive, many consumers are still reluctant to use them
for fear that going "ticketless" will leave them
Here are some thoughts on e-tickets that may ease
the apprehension surrounding them.
How Do They Work?
you book e-tickets, there are some things you need to keep in
mind. Here are some tips to make the process easier:
When you make reservations, make sure the name on the
e-ticket and the traveler's primary piece of identification
are identical. The issuing of an e-ticket, and boarding later
on, can be denied if the identification does not match what's
on the ticket. In particular, watch out for misspelled names,
which can lead to a lot of confusion.
Print out your itinerary, including the confirmation
number, and bring it with you to the airport. Your itinerary
can serve as evidence that you booked the flight, made a seat
selection, and requested a special meal.
Some airlines offer separate check-in lines for e-ticketed
passengers. But, to be issued your boarding pass, you'll need
a photo ID, such as a driver's license or passport, and the
credit card you used to charge the ticket.
Check in early to ensure that you get your seat assignment
and that there are no problems with your ticket. Moreover,
reconfirm each leg of your flight to make sure there are no
Sheila from Slippery
Rock, PA, wonders how do e-tickets work? That's a good question.
E-tickets remain one of the most misunderstood airline processes,
yet they are really quite simple. An e-ticket confirms your airline
ticket purchase without requiring a paper record. The only record of
an e-ticket sale is in electronic format stored in the airline's
The e-mail you receive after you purchase
your e-ticket includes your confirmation number, which is also on
record with the airline. When you check in for your flight, give the
ticket agent your confirmation number, as well as your name and a
government-issued photo ID. (For your protection, some airlines also
require that you show the credit card you used to purchase your
ticket.) That's all there is to it.
How Long Are E-Tickets
Jeff from State College, PA, wrote in wanting
to know how long e-tickets are valid? Like paper tickets, e-tickets
have time limits for making changes or refunds. Policies for changes
and refunds, along with fees, vary widely by airline and seem to
change often. In general, some airlines require that you use your
ticket within one year from the date of purchase, while others
require one year from the date you were originally scheduled to
travel. Always check with your carrier on its policies before
you purchase. Examples from the top 10 U.S. carriers:
- Air Tran: One year from date of purchase.
- Alaska: One year from date of travel.
- American: One year from date of purchase.
- America West: One year from date of purchase.
- Continental: One year from date of purchase.
- Delta: One year from date of purchase.
- Northwest: One year from date of travel.
- Southwest: One year from date of purchase.
- United: Tickets issued before March 1, 2002, have no
expiration. E-tickets issued after that date vary in expiration
date. The less restricted the ticket, the longer the expiration
- US Airways: One year from date of
Fort Atkinson, WI, asks whether you can use e-tickets for
international flights? Some airlines have started e-ticketing on a
select number of international markets, but most international
flights still require paper tickets.
Customs agents require
that you have proof of your scheduled return in your possession. So,
if you travel internationally with an e-ticket, be sure to have a
copy of your full itinerary with you.
The Future of
The use of e-tickets is rapidly evolving,
especially with e-ticket interlining (airline to airline ticketing).
Before, if you were traveling outbound on one airline and returning
on another, you had to use a paper ticket. However, in the past
year, airline alliances have started changing that policy, so you
can use e-tickets when your flights involve travel on more than one
airline. Airlines that offer interline e-ticketing include:
Airlines/Horizon Air, Continental, Northwest,
United, US Airways
West, Northwest, United, US Airways
Airlines/Horizon Air, American, Continental,
, American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, US
Customers will be able to use a
single e-ticket when their itineraries include travel on these
paired carriers. In the future, most airlines will offer this
service, which will make last-minute changes between carriers
Also, coming soon to your personal computer are
print-it-yourself tickets. With a new technology called EncrypTix, consumers will be able to purchase and
print airline tickets themselves. This service will be made possible
through encryption technology, initially developed for delivering
pre-paid postage over the Internet and thoroughly tested by the U.S.
Postal Service for more than two years.
What Does Real
Lastly, Tom from Egypt, PA, asks, "What does
Real Traveler prefer, paper or e-tickets?" I use both. I have used
many e-tickets for domestic trips without problems, and I will
continue to use them. However, I will not use e-tickets for
multiple-airline travel (yet), for international travel, on airlines
with labor problems, or for travel through particularly busy airline
hubs at certain times of the year (for example, Chicago O'Hare in
Why? Because even though advances in e-ticketing
makes sense in terms of cost-cutting and convenience, holding an
e-ticket when things go wrong can be a major inconvenience,
especially since most airlines can't accept each other's e-tickets
yet. Although some airlines do accept each other's e-tickets (as
mentioned above), for the majority of airlines, paper tickets are
still the standard negotiable document between airlines. That means
those holding e-tickets must convert their ticket to a paper ticket
before transferring between carriers.
will be a seamless process among carriers. There's no doubt about
it, e-tickets will be the way all of us travel in the future. And,
I'm sure there will be a day when we look back and wonder how we
ever got along without them.
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