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Delta to drop virtually all paper tickets

By Times staff and wire reports
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 3, 2002

Delta Air Lines is planning to eliminate virtually all of its paper tickets and will issue only electronic tickets, effective immediately.

Only about 2 percent of the airline's flights won't be affected by the e-ticket guideline. The airline said 75 percent of its customers now book their flights with e-tickets either over the phone, on the Internet, at ticket counters or ticket kiosks located in many airports.

A number of major airlines, including American and Continental, already have adopted similar fees for paper tickets. But Southwest Airlines has no plans to do so. And while US Airways is reviewing its policy, a spokesman said, the airline does not currently charge for paper tickets. Delta said customers who continue to want a paper ticket can convert an electronic ticket to a paper one for a $10 fee. The fee will be waived for some of Delta's best customers: SkyMiles Medallion members and for customers purchasing full fare, unrestricted tickets, the airline said.

Customers with electronic tickets receive a combined receipt and itinerary card that provides the same relevant information as a paper ticket, including a complete flight itinerary, ticket number, fare data and all information necessary for proof of purchase, the airline said.

E-ticketing has helped speed the growth of online travel booking, which airlines also have encouraged because it cuts processing costs.

But some travelers have clung to paper tickets out of habit or fear of a computer glitch, even though airlines say e-tickets are safer than paper tickets because they cannot be lost. Also, e-tickets can cause complications for some travelers. For example, most airlines don't have access to each other's electronic ticketing records. So e-ticketed travelers who want to switch to another carrier when their flight is delayed or canceled must get a paper ticket from their original airline. Business travelers with full-fare paper tickets can usually take them directly to the other airline.

-- Times staff writer Steve Huettel contributed to this report, which includes information from Scripps Howard News Service, Cox Newspapers and the Wall Street Journal.

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