Evolution of Airfare Ticketing

Back in the day, airlines did everything manually – One would call the airline or a travel agent for a reservation, they then had to go through the files to check the flight availability and then check off a seat. To ensure regulation and better convenience, they started to roll out tickets. This led to the birth of airline ticketing. 

As air travel players, you know all about airfare ticketing, but how informed are you about the evolution of airfare ticketing? Let’s take a trip down memory lane and learn how the evolution of airfare ticketing has largely impacted the growth of travel technology.

The basic function of an airline ticket was to verify that the passenger has the authority to board the plane and has paid the fare. Airline tickets were first introduced in 1909 coinciding with the first passenger flights. Passengers were required to make reservations by telephone and the tickets were mailed to the passengers. As time progressed from the 1930s to the 1990s, airline tickets consisted of a series of paper coupons outlining every leg of the trip. Paper tickets were dated as early as 1920s, but soon airlines realised that to support the growth of such an industry, standardisation was key. These standards served the industry up until the early 1970s.

The first big ticketing revolution occurred in 1972 with automation leading to the birth of the ‘IATA neutral paper ticket’. This allowed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) logo to appear on the cover of all the tickets used by any airline across the world. With the advent of the internet, airline reservation systems began allowing real time access to flight details and enabled the integration and automation of its booking and ticketing process. This enabled airlines to easily perform cost benefit analysis on different pricing structures, further leading to almost perfect price discrimination.

The next major revolution was the creation of an automated boarding pass which included a magnetic strip that could be read by a computer. Here the ticket information could be stored electronically on the ticket and could also be used as a boarding pass.

With gradual advances in travel technology, passengers decided to choose and pay for flights online and preferred to have their confirmation receipts sent to their email addresses. This led to the advent of the e-ticket which was meant to be printed and brought to the airport. The e-ticket was often used to obtain a boarding pass and along with the ticket attached, passengers were allowed to board the aircraft.

However after much deliberation, IATA decided to launch a new era in air travel as it bid farewell to the paper ticket on the eve of the industry’s conversion to 100% electronic ticketing.

Director General and CEO of IATA, Mr. Giovanni Bisignani said “Today we say goodbye to an industry icon. The paper ticket has served us well, but its time is over. After four years of hard work by airlines around the world, tomorrow marks the beginning of a new, more convenient and more efficient era for air travel.” As of June 1, 2008 IATA member airlines announced that they will no longer issue any paper tickets. “An era has ended. If you have a paper ticket, it’s time to donate it to a museum,” said Bisignani.

Airlines continue to experiment with new ways to sell tickets. The days of having to remember to carry your flight tickets, boarding pass or passport will soon be a thing of the past. The introduction of a rice sized microchip, implanted beneath the skin clearly indicates that the future is shaped for good. With such fast paced advances in travel technology, airfare ticketing is certainly bound to evolve.

What do you foresee as a development in the domain of airfare ticketing?