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Bon voyage, paper tickets
- Last order placed, booklet to be souvenir in 278 days
Collector's item

Aug. 27: The glossy cover and booklet thickness have always given the air ticket the look of a souvenir. Now it’s set to become one.

Global airlines body IATA today said it had placed its last order for paper tickets, clearing the way for air travel to be based solely on electronic ticketing from next June 1.

“In just 278 more days, the paper ticket will become a collector’s item,” said Giovanni Bisignani, director-general of the International Air Transport Association.

Most airlines in India and the world, barring a few low-cost carriers, are IATA affiliates. The ones in the country that aren’t part of it already operate almost entirely on the basis of e-tickets.

The changeover from paper will not only cut airlines’ costs by $9 (Rs 370) for every traveller but would also mean the industry — criticised by environmentalists for its part in global warming — would save 50,000 mature trees a year, Bisignani added.

The cost savings are unlikely to be passed on to the passengers.

“Air fares are already low because of competition; I don’t think the switch to e-tickets will bring them down any further,” an official of a domestic airline told The Telegraph on condition that neither he nor his company would be identified.

Already 70 to 80 per cent of the 5 million air tickets bought in India every month are e-tickets, just below the global figure of 84 per cent. In eastern India, they account for 72 per cent of the 40,000 tickets sold per month.

IATA says China, one of the fastest-growing markets for air travel and host to next year’s Olympic Games, is heading to be the first country to operate an entirely paper-free ticketing system by the end of this year.

But in India, dumping the fat paper ticket into history’s dustbin may not make air travel literally paperless. In many foreign countries you need to show only your passport at the terminal gates – and then can check yourself in without help by using your PNR (passenger name record) number.

At Indian airports, where the entry of visitors is often restricted on security grounds, you will almost certainly continue to need the computer printout. The Central Industrial Security Force guards are unlikely to accept anything less than a ticket in some physical form.

In the days of global terror, however, e-ticketing may offer greater security. An industry source said airlines can track the entire online bookings for any particular flight months after they were made.

Among the other, more obvious, advantages is that you never need worry about forgetting or losing your ticket. If you have the PNR number, you can get a printout anytime, anywhere – even at the airport.

The passenger, travel agent and the airline are also spared the hassles and costs of physical delivery.

But it may be worth buying the glossy paper ticket one last time – and hang on to it as a souvenir.

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