International Air Transport Association (IATA) heralded a new era in air travel and bid farewell to “an industry icon” last month.
Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO said, “The paper ticket has served us well, but its time is over.”
“In four years we achieved what many thought was impossible. We made 100 per cent ET a reality everywhere – from our largest hubs to small remote island airports with no electricity. It is an incredible industry achievement,” said Bisignani.
Paper tickets date back to the 1920s. Each airline used a different form with varying rules. Airlines soon recognised the need for standardization, and in 1930, the first standard hand written ticket for multiple trips were issued. These same standards served the industry into the early 1970s.
In 1972 came automation followed later by the IATA neutral paper ticket. For the first time the IATA logo appeared on the cover of tickets that could be used by any travel agent to ticket journeys on almost any airline in the world.
In 1983 the system was further automated with a magnetic stripe on the ticket back. At its peak, 285 million of IATA neutral paper tickets (both versions) were printed in 2005.
The first e-ticket was issued in 1994. By 1997 IATA had adopted global standards for e-ticketing. But the evolution was slow and by May 2004, only 19 per cent of global tickets were electronic.
IATA presented a plan simplifying plan to finally achieve 100 per cent e-ticketing.
“The benefits to the business are real,” said Bisignani. A paper ticket costs an average of $10 to process versus $1 for an electronic ticket. With over 400 million tickets issued through IATA’s settlement systems annually, the industry will save over $3 billion each year.
For consumers, it means no lost tickets. ETs can easily be changed and reissued without necessitating a trip to a travel agency or airline ticket office. And they enable many self-service options such as online and mobile check in.
While IATA will no longer issue paper ticket stock, IATA neutral paper tickets issued by travel agents before June 1 remain valid for travel under the conditions they were purchased. Paper tickets may still be provided by an airline from its own offices or from a travel agent in the USA, although it is anticipated the volumes will be very low.
To complete the conversion IATA has contacted 60,000 travel agents in more than 200 countries to collect the remaining unused paper tickets in the system – some 32 million worldwide. These will be securely reclaimed, destroyed and recycled.
“An era has ended. If you have a paper ticket, it’s time to donate it to a museum,” said Bisignani.
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