Meets deadline for 100% ET

Istanbul - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today launched a new era in air travel as it bid farewell to the paper ticket on the eve of the industry’s conversion to 100% electronic ticketing.

“Today we say goodbye to an industry icon,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “The paper ticket has served us well, but its time is over. After four years of hard work by airlines around the world, tomorrow marks the beginning of a new, more convenient and more efficient era for air travel.”

The history of tickets…

Paper tickets date back to the 1920s. Each airline used a different form with varying rules. Airlines soon recognised the need for standardisation of traffic documents, regulations and procedures to support the growth of an industry that spanned the world. In 1930, the IATA Traffic Committee developed the first standard hand-written ticket for multiple trips. These same standards served the industry into the early 1970s.

The first ticketing revolution occurred in 1972 with automation. The IATA Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) for travel agents began in Tokyo that year. This led to the birth of 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.

The next revolution took place in 1983 when the system was further automated with a magnetic stripe on the ticket back. This allowed all of the ticket information to be stored electronically on the ticket itself and it could be used as the boarding pass as well.

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% of global tickets were electronic.

Simplifying the Business

At the 2004 Annual General Meeting in Singapore, the successive crises of war, terrorism and SARS were still being felt, the price of oil was approaching US$40 per barrel and the imperative for cost efficiencies was critical. IATA presented a plan for Simplifying the Business, the highlight of which was to achieve 100% e-ticketing.

Over four years, IATA deployed a global team of 150 people to work with airlines and system providers around the world to facilitate implementation.

“In four years we achieved what many thought was impossible. We made 100% ET a reality everywhere – from our largest hubs to small remote island airports with no electricity. It is an incredible industry achievement,” said Bisignani.

“The benefits to the business are real,” said Bisignani. A paper ticket costs an average of US$10 to process versus US$1 for an electronic ticket. With over 400 million tickets issued through IATA’s settlement systems annually, the industry will save over US$3 billion each year.

Consumer benefits…

Consumers can look forward to easier travel in an electronic world. 100% ET eliminates lost tickets. ETs can easily be changed and reissued without necessitating a trip to a travel agency or airline ticket office. And they enable a wide array of self-service options such as online and mobile check in.

”With ET a reality we can now enter the next phase of Simplifying the Business,” said Bisignani. “We are moving ahead with a further revolution—Fast Travel that will provide convenient self-service options from check-in to baggage tracing and re-booking.”

Cleaning-up paper…

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.

Last paper ticket ceremony photos

Editors Notes:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association) represents some 230 airlines comprising 93% of international scheduled air traffic.
  • The IATA Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) is a system by which IATA, as an independent third party, manages the transfer of money derived from cash sales of airline tickets between travel agents and airlines.
  • IATA has 80 BSPs covering more than 162 countries and territories that handle some US$220 billion annually.
  • When the ET project was launched in June 2004, the industry was at 19% Electronic Ticketing.
  • IATA has 150 staff supporting its Simplifying the Business programme.
  • IATA invested $1.3 million in an ET Buddy Programme to provide free consulting to airlines needing assistance in launching their ET projects.
  • Since June 2004 IATA has held 23 workshops worldwide to support ET implementation.
  • Key Dates
    • IATA interline manual ticket established: circa 1930
    • Transitional automated ticket (TAT) established: 1971
    • IATA creates standard for Neutral Paper Ticket: 1972
    • IATA launches BSP Japan and Neutral Paper Ticket: 1972
    • Automated Ticket & Boarding Pass (ATB) established: 1983
    • Electronic Ticket (ET) established: 1994
    • IATA standard for ET established: 1997
    • IATA Board of Governors pass resolution for 100% ET: 2004
    • 100% ET – June 1, 2008