Waste paper

IATA is driving paper out of the aviation industry by helping airlines move to 100% e-ticketing.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  January 3, 2005

|~|sundsfjord_m.jpg|~|Yngvar Sundsfjord, IATA’s manager for reservation & ticketing standards|~|IATA’s Simplifying the Business campaign promises to revolutionise the aviation sector, removing countless reams of paper from the industry. The key focus of the project is the introduction of 100% e-ticketing by the end of 2007, which will have huge implications for all areas of the industry, as well as opening up countless possibilities for enhancing customer service levels and cutting costs. The Simplifying the Business project covers five areas: e-ticketing, common use self-service (CUSS) kiosks, RFID bag tags, barcoded boarding documents and automated interlining. IATA’s board of governors and the organisation’s AGM approved the programme in June 2004, and although IATA is leading the project it was the airlines that requested it. “Some carriers come to us and say, ‘why are you doing this?’ But it was not us who decided to do this… Instead, we were asked by the CEOs from the 273 IATA member airlines to do it, and that is very different,” says Yngvar Sundsfjord, IATA’s manager for reservation & ticketing standards. “It is the airlines themselves who are asking for this, but they need IATA to drive the process.” IATA is working on all five areas of the programme, but e-ticketing is the key focus. This both enables other strands of the programme and also provides the clearest benefits. The most obvious advantage of e-ticketing is cost. An electronic ticket costs around US $9 less to issue than a paper ticket, which will create huge savings, as globally more than 300 million tickets a year are issued by airlines. However, to realise the full benefits of e-ticketing, carriers also need to re-engineer their internal processes. The most obvious example is in revenue accounting. Today, airlines fly paper tickets from their various stations to a central office and then they are handled by various different people and departments. E-ticketing, however, enables the airline to cut through these processes, as the billing data is much more quickly available. “[With e-ticketing] you suddenly have all of the data available at the time of departure,” comments Sundsfjord. “You can then start internal processes straight away, as you have the data and you know how much value the coupon has from the interline perspective, which then means you can go to the clearinghouse and get the money a lot faster,” he explains. “The industry needs to look at these things for the future, and ask how we can speed up these processes. This will then benefit the airlines, as it will allow them to get the revenue a lot quicker, which then improves their cash flow,” he adds. Passengers will also benefit from the implementation of e-ticketing, as they no longer need to collect and look after a paper ticket. Reservations can also be more easily and cheaply changed with e-tickets, and they also open up possibilities for further customer services initiatives, such as online check-in. “The customer gets a better product [with e-ticketing], and the airline gets a cost saving, so it is a win-win situation for both parties,” comments Sundsfjord. Within the region, airlines are slowly moving towards e-ticketing. So far among the flag carriers, only Emirates and Royal Air Maroc have deployed e-ticketing, although neither has the 100% level achieved by Air Arabia. There are projects underway at most carriers though, with IATA, as well as AACO, assisting them in the process. “There are not many [carriers in the Middle East] that have implemented e-ticketing so far, but they are working on the projects,” notes Sundsfjord. “There are several airlines contacting us now to get help… [and] we are trying to provide the information. However, we cannot do the project for them,” he adds. The deadline for 100% e-ticketing is the end of 2007, but airlines need to start work on it now because of the company-wide impact the technology will have. For similar reasons, there needs to be top level leadership for the project, to ensure that it is undertaken successfully. “[E-ticketing] should not be run as an IT project because it concerns so many processes within the airline,” notes Sundsfjord. “It is also not a typical IT project because it is not just about systems solutions. It is also about how you re-engineer the processes you have created for handling paper tickets. Can you do these things smarter, and can you do away with some things you do today?” The project will also affect other businesses and government agencies that interact with the airline, so IATA advises carriers to get these organisations involved from day one. “Whenever we do [a seminar for an airline], we say get everybody onboard for our meeting from the check-in desk to the revenue accounting department to the middle management, everyone involved. Even invite your groundhandling companies and any governmental authorities you feel who need to have this,” says Sundsfjord. However, despite the amount of work that needs to be done and the large impact that e-ticketing will have, Sundsfjord is confident that airlines around the world, including those within the region will be able to meet the 2007 deadline — provided they begin work on it soon. “I think meeting the deadline is achievable, but carriers have to start on it now, and not wait until the summer 2007,” he warns.||**||

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