Farewell to paper tickets

As the e-ticketing (ET) deadline looms, Dr Majdi Sabri, regional vice president MENA at IATA, extols the benefits of a paperless travel environment

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By  Gemma Hornett Published  September 5, 2006

How have you helped the region’s travel industry implement ET?|~|Dr-Sabri-large.gif|~||~|IATA has activated a team of 150 people across more than 90 countries worldwide and invested US $10 million in the past two years to support the industry’s transition to 100% ET. Last year, IATA’s biggest challenge was to send a clear signal that the move to 100% ET was the ‘real deal’. That meant getting it to the top of the ‘to do’ lists at every airline. At the same time we have launched a comprehensive web site, conducted hands-on ET workshops, including several in this region, and we’ve introduced an ET buddy system to share ET expertise between airlines. Although travel agent training is the responsibility of airlines and GDS systems, IATA participates, upon request, in providing ET training and presentations to agents.||**||The Middle East market is atypical in that many consumers prefer a paper ticket. How are you educating them about ET and its benefits?|~||~||~|While each market in MENA is unique, in general, they all have a proven history of accepting new products, such as the use of ATM machines and credit cards. Last year, IATA placed advertisements on the back of the paper tickets, which extolled the virtues of electronic ticketing. Additionally, as the regional and national airlines move to ET, we expect them to increasingly launch information campaigns to make their clients aware of ET, and how easy it is to use. Usually it takes just one trip to convince a passenger that a piece of paper is more of a burden than an advantage. Customer acceptance has actually pushed the rapid adoption of ET, and it is important to remember that everything can be done electronically with greater accuracy.||**|| Will all of the region’s airlines be up to speed by the 2007 deadline and what will be the consequences if they are not?|~||~||~|We’re confident that all major airlines in the region will make the deadline. The real question is to what degree they will be ready, due to issues that may not relate directly to them such as third party systems or service providers. One thing is clear, the sooner they start, the more likely they are to meet the deadline. Converting to ET agreements is particularly time consuming. Our message to carriers is to implement now and do so with speed. There is no legal requirement to implement 100% ET, but there are several compelling financial reasons; it will improve customer service and save up to $9 per ticket [for example]. Airlines that still wish to issue paper tickets in 2008 must do so on their own and at a very high cost.||**||Which airlines are already fully compliant and which are lagging behind?|~||~||~|Many key airlines in the region are already issuing ETs, including Emirates, Tunis Air, Royal Air Maroc, Gulf Air, Oman Air and Royal Jordanian. A number of airlines have started late, but are quickly catching up, and we expect them to make it by the end of 2007.||**||Why will travel agents benefit from ET and if they are not compliant by the IATA deadline, what will be consequences?|~||~||~|It’s important to note that travel agents benefit significantly from 100% ET. They no longer have to manage and safeguard paper stock, and they can service customers over a wider area. Full ET eliminates lost tickets, courier and mailing costs, and airline fees for using paper tickets. ET also makes the handling of last minute travel plans or itinerary changes much easier. We do not expect travel agents and tour operators to experience great difficulties [in converting to ET], since the way they conduct business remains basically the same. The GDS system will advise as to whether the journey is eligible for an ET and a check is made by the airline’s system, so there is no danger of issuing an ET that cannot be accepted. After issuing an ET, the agent must send the passenger an airline issued itinerary receipt instead of printing a paper ticket. This can be sent by e-mail or via more traditional means.||**||What advice can you give agents and operators to help them implement ET and to educate customers about paperless travel?|~||~||~|The advice we are giving travel agents – and all involved in the ET process – is to start early, train staff, and get familiar with ET. The sooner they start, the smoother the transition will be. We are also urging them to educate their customers on the benefits of ET. Once a passenger uses an ET, they will not want to use paper tickets again. ETs can’t be misplaced, and enable the use of other services such as self-service, or at home check-in.||**||Once ET is implemented, what other systems or procedures will IATA roll out?|~||~||~|IATA is working in parallel on four other Simplifying the Business (StB) projects designed to make travel and shipping more convenient and to save the industry $6.5 billion annually. They include common use self service check-in (CUSS), bar coded boarding passes (BCBP), radio frequency identification (RFID) for aviation and IATA e-freight. BCBPs will allow passengers to print boarding passes from home. Airlines must implement industry standard BCBPs by the end of 2010.||**||THE SALES PITCH|~||~||~|Essential info: ET deadline: December 31, 2007. A paper ticket costs US $10 to process compared to $1 for an e-ticket. ET will save the global travel industry at least $3 billion annually. Common use self-service check-in (CUSS) will save $2.50 per check-in and $1 billion annually with 40% market penetration. Bar coded boarding passes (BCBP) will save $3.58 per check-in with baggage and $5.34 without baggage, leading to $500 million savings annually at 20% market penetration. When fully implemented, it is estimated that RFID will improve baggage service and yield $760 million in industry savings. The five StB projects will save the industry $6.5 billion annually. Travel agent info: http://www.iata.org/stbsupportportal/travelagent. 4 StB web site: http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/simplibiz. 4 IATA info: http://www.iata.org/worldwide/middle_east/index.||**||

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