IATA to discuss prolonging e-ticket deadline

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry body, is to discuss extending the controversial deadline for all airlines to convert from manual to electronic ticketing.

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By  Michele Howe Published  May 24, 2007

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline industry body, is to discuss extending the controversial deadline for all airlines to convert from manual to electronic ticketing. Currently, airlines have to make the switch by December 31 this year; after that date, the 60,000 IATA affiliated travel agents around the world will no longer issue paper tickets. Speaking with ITP.net, Dr Majdi Sabri, regional vice president MENA at IATA, said that while there are no current plans to extend the e-ticketing deadline the topic would be discussed at the association’s annual general meeting, which is scheduled to take place on June 4-5 in Vancouver, Canada. “First the board of governors will discuss it. They will make recommendations to the airlines at the AGM and then the airlines will discuss it and decide what to do,” Sabri said. Ultimately, the decision will be up to the airlines, he said. Regional airlines have lagged behind the rest of the world in making the switch to electronic ticketing. Electronic ticketing penetration in the MENA region was just 39%, according to figures released by IATA at the end of April, in comparison to a global rate of 79%. Airlines that fail to convert in time can continue to operate, but will have to issue their own tickets as IATA will no longer be handling paper tickets, Sabri explained. “They can continue but it complicates their life because then they have to maintain two systems, one electronic and one manual, and no airline wants to do that,” he said. The other major problem for airlines that don’t convert will be a loss of revenue in interlining, which is where an airline accepts a booking for a passenger’s entire journey then liases with onward carriers for the destinations they do not cover. As the integration work needed to link different airlines’ systems so they can issue interline agreements is very complex, airlines are cutting down on the number of routes that they will issue such agreements on. Gulf Air is expecting to cancel half of its 200 interline agreements if the deadline is not extended, while Saudi Arabian Airlines expects to convert no more than 70 of its 200 paper interline agreements. Interlining represents on average 15% of an airline’s business, according to Sabri.

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