It may surprise you to learn that of the 400 million airline tickets issued by members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), only 64 million of them are actually printed on paper. It seems that most of the world has already been bitten by the e-ticketing bug, which is a good thing. Not least because IATA has just placed its very last order for some 16.5 million paper tickets as it gets ready to switch over to a completely paper free, e-tickets only, system from June 2008.
It could also be a good thing for both the airlines, which stand to save $9 per traveler (or $3 billion annually for the industry as a whole) when using e-tickets, and the environment with an estimated 50,000 mature tress being saved from the chop each year. Perhaps most importantly from the airline perspective, it might just provide a little positive PR which they could do with given the bad press regarding carbon footprints they have been getting of late.
IATA represents the vast majority of airlines, more than 240 of them in fact, around the world. The statistics are impressive enough, with IATA members accounting for 94 percent of scheduled air traffic. "This is the last call for paper tickets" IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani told DaniWeb, continuing "it's been 38 months since we launched the drive for 100 per cent e-ticketing as part of IATA's Simplifying the Business initiative. E-ticketing went from 16 per cent in June 2004 to 84 per cent today. And in just 278 more days the paper ticket will become a collector's item."
Or maybe not.
While some of the low-cost airlines which do not subscribe to IATA already use e-ticketing to save money, not all of them do. Even within IATA there are some members, particularly in the Middle East, which have been slow to make the transition to e-ticketing. The one thing that IATA seems to have forgotten in its rush to produce more favorable media headlines is that not all regions have the kind of Internet penetration levels required to make e-ticketing viable for domestic markets. Some have made it clear that they will be unable to meet the cut off date and will continue to print their own paper tickets, something that IATA cannot stop.
Indeed, some such as the Iranian carrier Mahan intend to operate dual ticketing system whereby international flights go electronic but domestic ones stick with paper.
It seems inevitable that paper tickets will, one day, fly out of the window. That day is probably a lot further away than June 2008, truth be told...