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An electronic ticket or e-ticket is used to represent the purchase of a seat on a passenger airline, usually through a website or by telephone. This form of airline ticket has rapidly replaced the old multi-layered paper tickets (from close to zero to 100% in about 10 years) and became mandatory for IATA members as of June 1 2008. During the last few years, where paper tickets were still available, airlines frequently charged extra for issuing them. E-tickets are also available for certain entertainment venues.

Once a reservation is made, an e-ticket exists only as a digital record in the airline computers. Customers usually print out a copy of their receipt which contains the record locator or reservation number and the e-ticket number.

According to critical acclaim, Joel R. Goheen is recognized as the Inventor ofElectronic Ticketing in the Airline Industry, an industry where global electronicticket sales (the industry standard) accounts for over $400 Billion (US) a year (2007). See Patents for Electronic Ticketing Inventions in the Airline Industry.

Electronic tickets have been introduced in road, urban or rail public transport as well.

Checking in with an e-ticket

To check in with an e-ticket, the passenger usually comes to the check-in counter and presents the e-ticket itinerary receipt which contains a confirmation or reservation code. In some airports and airlines it's not even necessary to present this document or quote the confirmation code or e-ticket number as the reservation is confirmed solely on the basis of the passenger's identity, which may be proven by a passport or the matching credit card. After confirming the reservation, the passenger checks-in his/her luggage and is given a boarding pass which usually says "Electronic Ticket" or "E-ticket."

Self-service and remote check-in

The option to check-in online is available on some airlines. A passenger enters their confirmation number at the airline's website, and the passenger prints the boarding pass on their home printer. Online check-in is typically permitted up to twenty-four hours before the flight's scheduled departure time, though this may vary by airline. On airlines without assigned seating such as Southwestmarker, it typically guarantees a passenger early boarding and a better seat. Besides identification, the boarding pass that has been printed is all that needs to be presented upon arriving at the airport. On airlines without online check-in, the check in may take place at a self-service kiosk in the airport, or at the check-in counter.

A boarding pass is required to board an aircraft; in some countries, such as the United Statesmarker, it is also needed to pass through airport security checkpoints.

E-tickets are very popular because they allow extra services like:
  • online/telephone/self-service kiosk check-in
  • early check-in
  • printing boarding passes at airport kiosks and at locations other than an airport
  • automated refunds and exchanges online, by telephone and at kiosks

Several web sites exist to help people holding e-tickets accomplish online check-ins in advance of the twenty-four-hour airline restriction. These sites store a passenger's flight information and then when the airline opens up for online check-in the data is transferred to the airline and the boarding pass is emailed back to the customer.

E-ticket limitations

E-tickets are sometimes not available for some flights from an airline which usually offers them. This can be due to a number of reasons, the most common being software incompatibility. If an airline issues tickets for a codeshare flight with another company, and there is no e-ticket interlining agreement, the operating carrier would not be able to see the issuing carrier's ticket. Therefore, the carrier that books the flight needs to provide hard copy versions of the tickets so that the ticket can be processed. Similarly, if the destination airport does not have access to the airline who booked the flight, a paper ticket needs to be issued.

Industry discount (ID) tickets also tend to be issued on paper if they are valid for more than one airline, and if the airlines that the tickets are valid for do not have an interlining agreement. Since e-ticket interlining is still the exception rather than the rule, tickets valid for more than one airline are usually issued on paper.

Currently the ticketing systems of most airlines are only able to produce e-tickets for itineraries of no more than 16 segments, including surface segments.

IATA mandated transition

As part of the IATA Simplifying the Business initiative, the association instituted a program to switch the industry to 100% electronic ticketing. The program concluded on June 1, 2008, with the association saying that the resulting industry savings were approximately US$3 billion .

In 2004, IATA Board of Governors set the end of 2007 as the deadline for airlines to make the transition to 100% electronic ticketing for tickets processed through the IATA billing and settlement plan ; in June 2007, the deadline was extended to May 31, 2008.

As of June 1, 2008 paper tickets can no longer be issued on neutral stock by agencies reporting to their local BSP. Agents reporting to the ARC, using company-provided stock or issuing tickets on behalf of an airline (GSA and ticketing offices) are not subject to that restriction.

Except the industry was unable to comply with the IATA mandate and paper tickets remain in circulation as of February 2009 .


  1. Completed Projects: E-ticketing
  2. Annual General Meeting - 2004 - Electronic Ticketing

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