Mumbai: Manoj Kotal, manager with a Mumbai-based shipping firm, has saved the “coloured paper tickets” from his first and latest flights.
Their value as souvenirs will increase from 1 June when almost all airline tickets the world over will acquire the e-prefix. Four years ago, the International Air Travel Association (IATA) decided to switch to e-ticketing from June 2008. Saturday will be the last day in the life of traditional tickets with multiple layers and colours.
The trade body, which represents 240 airlines that account for 94% of global air traffic, says the move will save up to $3 billion (Rs12,840 crore) a year, a considerable amount especially for an ailing industry.
It will also save some trees, although not as much as it should.
“Significantly, e-ticketing will help save five billion A-4 size sheets (or paper) a year for the industry,” says Ankur Bhatia, executive director of travel firm Bird Group and managing director of ticketing software company Amadeus India. This saving will be offset to an extent by the fact that passengers will still need to have a copy of their tickets printed out on plain paper.
E-ticketing, Bhatia adds, throws opens a range of possibilities such as self-service kiosks.
“I am now looking forward to short messaging service, or SMS-enabled travel. That will be the next trend,” says Kotal, a frequent flier to north Indian cities.
Ravi Menon, chief strategy officer at Sharepro Services India Pvt. Ltd, remembers when airline ticket books were a status symbol. “The creamy layer used to display these tickets in their jacket pockets,” he says, using a term that has become popular after the government started using it to refer to people who had already benefited from reservation for college seats and jobs.
“But, with the advent of low-fare carriers, the barriers were shattered. And, e-ticketing has redefined airline travel even more,” Menon adds.
IATA, which used to send standardized ticket books to agents globally, has stopped printing them, saying this will cut down processing costs, allow selling through various channels and reduce possibilities of fraud. The books were printed under security in China to avoid manipulation.
“For travel agents, e-ticketing eliminates all the constraints linked to paper. No more paperstock to manage or ticket printers to maintain,” IATA said in a statement.
Indian carriers have already switched to e-ticketing, which was initially made popular in the country by low-fare airlines that were adopting all measures possible to cut costs.
The transition has not been without hurdles. Travel agents are still not ready to accept this change and certain small airports are still not capable of handling e-tickets, says Ajay Prakash, national general secretary of the Travel Agents Federation of India, or Tafi.
“There is no e-ticketing arrangement for interline (inter-airline) agreement and for journeys to more than 16 destinations globally,” adds Prakash. “And the airlines are not ready to issue e-tickets for infants.”
Regi Philip, an IATA-accredited travel agent who runs Cosmos Agencies, says airlines are now enabling their systems to issue e-tickets for children as well. “Till now, e-tickets were issued only for seats occupied and, so, could not be issued for children below 24 months (who didn’t occupy seats).”
Jet Airways India Ltd, the country’s largest private airline, on Thursday modified its system to do this and other airlines are set to follow suit.
Albert Tjoeng, manager (corporate communications), IATA Asia Pacific, says only 1% of global travel will be hurt by the lack of interline e-ticketing agreements.
The exit of the glossy rectangular tickets books means one less medium for advertisers, but they aren’t really bothered.
“I don’t think there’s any nostalgia factor involved with the discontinuation of these tickets. Then again, advertisers can advertise on e-tickets also,” says Santosh Padhi, executive creative director, Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd.
“It’s a media opportunity, but not a critical one for advertisers,” adds Anil Nair, president, Law and Kenneth Worldwide. “No one has a planned budget for branding around tags or tickets. All of this anyway comes from miscellaneous (left-over) budgets.”
(Anushree Chandran contributed to this story.)