Most Airlines Switching to All-Electronic Ticketing

Electronic tickets have become so popular in the past five years that paper tickets have almost died out. Now, the International Air Transport Association wants all airlines to use e-tickets as of June 1.

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ROBERT SMITH, host:

Let's take a moment now to mark the end of an era. Come next week, no more paper airline tickets. As of June 1, members of the International Air Transport Association - and that's most of the world's carriers - switch to all electronic ticketing.

NPR's Ben Bergman has more.

BEN BERGMAN: Paper tickets were like cash. If you lost them you were totally out of luck. Larry Johnson found that out when he flew from Oregon to North Dakota. He had some time to kill before the flight, so he decided to go for a stroll on the beach. It was so windy that his $350 airline ticket took off without him.

Mr. LARRY JOHNSON: Even though I had ID, the physical ticket was gone and so I had to buy another.

BERGMAN: That was 19 years ago. Today, the rise of e-ticketing seems to be one of the only improvements to flying. And it's not just passengers who are fans. Steve Lott is with the International Air Transport Association.

Mr. STEVE LOTT (International Air Transport Association): To process a paper ticket costs $10 per ticket. To process an electronic ticket it only costs about $1 per ticket.

BERGMAN: That adds up to about $3 billion a year. A lot of money to be saving at a time when fuel costs are skyrocketing. Some airlines overseas won't be totally ready by Sunday's deadline, especially in Russia and Africa. But Lott says it won't be long before paper tickets are a collector's item.

Mr. LOTT: Don't be surprised if the next time you go the Smithsonian you'll see an old-fashioned paper ticket on the wall.

BERGMAN: Next up for airlines, self-scanning to board planes. Meaning gate agents could soon find themselves in a museum as well.

Ben Bergman, NPR News.

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