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When will airlines allow e-tickets to be negotiable documents?

Dear Anita,

All the major airlines have websites and are strongly encouraging passengers to book e-tickets directly with the airline (by offering frequent flier bonuses and price discounts). When do you think the airlines will accept e-tickets as negotiable documents just like they do for paper tickets (in case of strikes or weather delays, etc.)?

Thank you,

Ron S.
Lecompte, LA

Dear Ron,

Currently, the majority of airlines only accept paper tickets as negotiable documents. However, that is rapidly changing through a process called "interline e-ticketing," which allows negotiable e-tickets between carriers.

Northwest and Continental started selling integrated e-tickets early last spring, and recently, Northwest has expanded to integrate United. With the interline system, customers can use an e-ticket issued by Northwest, for example, to fly on an itinerary that includes a leg on United or Continental. Travel industry analysts expect that most U.S. airlines will be interlining tickets within several years.

Globally, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and SITA (provider of integrated information solutions to the air transport industry) have entered into a strategic partnership to stimulate the wide-scale adoption of interline e-ticketing. IATA estimates that by the year 2005, 50 percent of all airline tickets will be e-tickets.

The airlines, and other travel industry players, have aggressively implemented e-services and self-service offerings in recent years, aiming to reduce operating costs and increase customer satisfaction. It costs an airline about one dollar to handle an e-ticket, compared to eight dollars for a paper ticket. The use of paper tickets is also very labor intensive—in some cases, a paper ticket goes through 11 pairs of hands before it ends its journey.

I hope I've been helpful. Happy travels!

Anita Dunham-Potter

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