An electronic ticket (commonly abbreviated as e-ticket) is a digital ticket. The term is most commonly associated with airline issued tickets. Electronic ticketing for urban or rail public transport is usually referred to as travel card or transit pass. It is also used in ticketing in the entertainment industry.
Electronic ticketing in the airline industry was devised in about 1994. Joel R. Goheen is recognized as the inventor of electronic ticketing in the airline industry. See Patents for Electronic Ticketing Inventions in the Airline Industry.
E-ticketing has largely replaced the older multi-layered paper ticketing systems, and since 1 June 2008, it has been mandatory for IATA members. Where paper tickets are still available, some airlines charge a fee for issuing paper tickets.
When a reservation is confirmed, the airline keeps a record of the booking in its computer reservations system. Customers can print out or are provided with a copy of their e-ticket itinerary receipt which contains the record locator or reservation number and the e-ticket number. It is possible to print multiple copies of an e-ticket itinerary receipt.
Besides providing itinerary details, an e-ticket itinerary receipt also contains:
- An official ticket number (including the airline's 3-digit ticketing code, a 4-digit form number, a 6-digit serial number, and sometimes a check digit).
- Carriage terms and conditions, (or at least a reference to them)
- Fare and tax details, including fare calculation details and some additional data such as tour codes. The exact cost might not be stated, but a "fare basis" code will always identify the fare used.
- A short summary of fare restrictions, usually specifying only whether change or refund are permitted but not the penalties to which they are subject.
- Form of payment.
- Issuing office.
- Baggage allowance.
Checking in with an e-ticket
To check in for a flight with an e-ticket, the passenger usually goes to the check-in counter in the usual manner. There they may be required to present some personal identification, a credit card or the e-ticket itinerary receipt. Theoretically it is not even necessary to present the e-ticket itinerary receipt 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. However, producing a print-out of the itinerary receipt is required to enter the terminal of some airports as well as to satisfy immigration regulations in most countries.
At the check-in counter, the passenger checks-in his/her luggage and receives a boarding pass. However, electronic ticketing allows various enhancements to checking-in.
Self-service and remote check-in
- online/telephone/self-service kiosk check-in (if the airline makes this option available)
- early check-in
- printing boarding passes at airport kiosks and at locations other than an airport
- delivery of boarding pass bar-codes via SMS or email to a mobile device
Several websites assist people holding e-tickets to check in online 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. With this e-ticket technology, if a passenger receives his boarding pass remotely and is travelling without check-in luggage, he may bypass traditional counter check-in.
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The ticketing systems of most airlines are only able to produce e-tickets for itineraries of no more than 16 segments, including surface segments. This is the same limit that applied to paper tickets.
Another critical limitation is that at the time e-tickets were initially designed, most airlines still practiced product bundling. By the time the industry began 100% e-ticket implementation, more and more airlines began to unbundle previously included services (like checked baggage) and add them back in as optional fees (ancillary revenue). However, the e-ticket standard did not anticipate and did not include a standardized mechanism for such optional fees.
IATA later implemented the Electronic Miscellaneous Document (EMD) standard for such information. This way, airlines could consistently expose and capture such fees at time of booking through travel reservation systems, rather than having to surprise passengers with them at check-in.
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 (GSAs and ticketing offices) are not subject to that restriction.
The industry was unable to comply with the IATA mandate and paper tickets remain in circulation as of February 2009.
Amtrak started offering electronic tickets on all train routes on 30 July 2012. These tickets can be ordered over the internet and printed (as a PDF file), printed at a Quik-Trak kiosk, or at the ticket counter at the station. Electronic tickets can also be held in a smart phone and shown to the conductor using an app.
Several European train operators also offer self printable tickets. Often tickets can also be delivered as SMS or MMS.
- Airline codes and ticketing codes
- Completed Projects: E-ticketing
- Annual General Meeting - 2004 - Electronic Ticketing
- "100% Electronic Ticketing Deadline Extension to 31 May 2008". IATA. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- IATA Simplifying the Business ET webpage
- See Electronic Ticketing Patents
- Future Trend of Check-In Process & Technology