IATA, the airline association, has been pushing for 100% e-ticketing for quite some time. The latest deadline is 1 June 2008, and unlike previous targets it seems this date is sticking.
I, like many other frequent travellers, have been sceptical that 100% etickets can be achieved by 1 June 2008. After all, it is not just remote parts of the planet that do not support etickets. It was only a couple of months ago I was issued an eticket by Qantas for a simple round trip between one of their hubs and another oneworld hub.
So it was no surprise when Air New Zealand confirmed that there is a long list of circumstances where paper tickets will still be required from 1 June 2008. More on that in a moment. My main concern is this. Air NZ warns that from 1 June 2008 it may take 5 or more working days to issue a paper ticket. Too bad if your travel plans change in a hurry and you are forced to use a paper ticket because of the e-ticketing limitations. Note this long delay is not because paper tickets suddenly become difficult to issue in two weeks time. No, it is an artificial constraint engineered to ensure as few paper tickets as possible are issued. Travel agents and airline ticket offices will no longer have paper ticket stock but will have to jump through hoops to get paper tickets issued and sent out to them.
The good news is that those who have paper tickets by 31 May 2008 will not be forced to reissue their tickets as e-tickets. Phew. The exception is where a ticket needs to be reissued after 31 May 2008 (eg for a change of routing) and travel has not yet commenced - they will need to reissue as an e-ticket.
The bad news. Here is a list of circumstances still requiring an e-ticket when the ticket is issued by Air New Zealand (or by a travel agent or Air NZ ticket stock). For other airlines, the items in points 4 to 6 may be different depending on where they fly, which airlines they interline with and whether or not they themselves have system issues with e-tickets.
- Over 16 coupons required, including any surface segments. This is the reason that both oneworld and Star Alliance round the world fare rules have reduced the number of allowed flights (from 1 June 2008 for oneworld and from 1 May 2008 for Star Alliance). Bad for travellers.
- Any open-dated segments. No more booking an itinerary and firming up the dates later while waiting for a waitlist to clear on the date you want. Bad for travellers.
- Reissue of paper ticket where travel has commenced. Neutral for travellers (forcing to switch to e-tickets would be bad).
- Any flights on Air Vanuatu or Air Rarotonga including Air NZ codeshares.
- Any flights on one or more of the following airlines - Aeroflot, Air Fiji, Air Rarotonga, Frontier Airlines, Garuda, Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Express, Skywest, Royal Brunei, Jetstar, Jet Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Eurostar. There may be other airlines that are also not ready for e-ticketing but which have no interline agreement with Air NZ.
- Any ticket that includes an infant and a flight on one or more of the following airlines - all those listed in #5 above plus American Airlines, Alaskan, EVA, Air China, Delta Airlines, Etihad, Air Pacific, Shanghai Airlines, Solomon Airlines, Lufthansa, Malaysian Airlines, Air Vanuatu, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic.
IATA is keen to push this through to save money for it's member airlines. However it seems it is the passengers who are having to pay for the initiative through greater restrictions on tickets (which could be solved by amending computer systems but this is not being done), and through potentially great inconvenience in some circumstances.
I wonder how long it will be before we get the first stories about people missing funerals because they needed a paper ticket and it was unable to be issued in time?