A sample itinerary for an open jaw electronic ticket from Montreal to Amsterdam, and returning from Munich

An electronic ticket is a method of ticket entry, processing, and marketing for companies in the airline, railways and other transport and entertainment industries.

Airline ticket

E-tickets in the airline industry were devised in about 1994,[1] and have now largely replaced the older multi-layered paper ticketing systems. Since 1 June 2008, it has been mandatory for IATA members to use e-ticketing. Where paper tickets are still available, some airlines charge a fee for issuing paper tickets.

When a reservation is confirmed, the airline keeps a record of the booking in its computer reservations system. Customers can print out or may be provided with a copy of a e-ticket itinerary receipt which contains the record locator or reservation number and the e-ticket number. It is possible to print multiple copies of an e-ticket itinerary receipt.

Besides providing itinerary details, an e-ticket itinerary receipt also contains:

Checking in with an e-ticket

Passengers with e-tickets are required to check-in at the airport for a flight in the usual manner, except that they may be required to present an e-ticket itinerary receipt or personal identification, such as a passport, or credit card. They can also use the Record locator, often called booking reference, a code of six letters and digits. Producing a print-out of an e-ticket itinerary receipt may be required to enter the terminal of some airports or to satisfy immigration regulations in some countries.[citation needed]

The introduction of e-tickets has allowed for various enhancements to checking-in processes.

Self-service and remote check-in

Several websites assist people holding e-tickets to check in online in advance of the twenty-four-hour airline restriction. These sites store a passenger's flight information and then when the airline opens up for online check-in the data is transferred to the airline and the boarding pass is emailed back to the customer. With this e-ticket technology, if a passenger receives his boarding pass remotely and is travelling without check-in luggage, he may bypass traditional counter check-in.

E-ticket limitations

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The ticketing systems of most airlines are only able to produce e-tickets for itineraries of no more than 16 segments, including surface segments. This is the same limit that applied to paper tickets.

Another critical limitation is that at the time e-tickets were initially designed, most airlines still practiced product bundling. By the time the industry began 100% e-ticket implementation, more and more airlines began to unbundle previously included services (like checked baggage) and add them back in as optional fees (ancillary revenue). However, the e-ticket standard did not anticipate and did not include a standardized mechanism for such optional fees.

IATA later implemented the Electronic Miscellaneous Document (EMD) standard for such information. This way, airlines could consistently expose and capture such fees at time of booking through travel reservation systems, rather than having to surprise passengers with them at check-in.

IATA mandated transition

As part of the IATA Simplifying the Business initiative, the association instituted a program to switch the industry to 100% electronic ticketing. The program concluded on June 1, 2008, with the association saying that the resulting industry savings were approximately US$3 billion.[3]

In 2004, IATA Board of Governors set the end of 2007 as the deadline for airlines to make the transition to 100% electronic ticketing for tickets processed through the IATA billing and settlement plan;[4] in June 2007, the deadline was extended to May 31, 2008.[5]

As of June 1, 2008 paper tickets can no longer be issued on neutral stock by agencies reporting to their local BSP. Agents reporting to the ARC using company-provided stock or issuing tickets on behalf of an airline (GSAs and ticketing offices) are not subject to that restriction.

The industry was unable to comply with the IATA mandate and paper tickets remain in circulation as of February 2009.[citation needed]

Train tickets

Amtrak started offering electronic tickets on all train routes on 30 July 2012.[6] These tickets can be ordered over the internet and printed (as a PDF file), printed at a Quik-Trak kiosk, or at the ticket counter at the station. Electronic tickets can also be held in a smart phone and shown to the conductor using an app. Mobile tickets are common with operators of US commuter train networks (e.g. MTA LIRR and Metro North) but they are usually only offered on the US version of the App Store and only accept US-issued credit cards as the app's payment page asks the user for the credit card's ZIP code to complete the purchase.

Several European train operators also offer self-printable or downloadable tickets. Often tickets can also be delivered by SMS or MMS. Railway operators in other countries also issue electronic tickets. The national operators of Denmark and Netherlands have a nationwide system where RFID smartcards are used as train tickets. In the UK, the issuance of printable or mobile tickets is at the discretion of train operators and is often available for advance tickets only (i.e. valid only on a specific train). This is very common in Europe for local urban rail, such as rapid transit/metros.[citation needed] During the 2010:s phone apps have been increasingly popular. Passengers do not have to visit a machine or a desk to buy a ticket or refill an RFID card, but can buy it in their phone.

In India, an SMS sent by the Indian Railways, along with a valid proof of identity is considered equivalent to a ticket.[7]

Sport, concert, and cinema tickets

Many sport, concert venues, and cinemas use electronic ticketing for their events. Electronic tickets, or "eTickets" as they are sometimes referred, are often delivered as PDFs or another downloadable format that can be received via email or through a mobile app. Electronic tickets allow organizers to avoid the cost of producing and distributing physical tickets by transferring costs to the customer, who must own electronic hardware and purchase internet access in order to receive their ticket.

A printed copy of these tickets or a digital copy on a mobile phone should be presented on coming to the venue. These tickets now normally also have a barcode, which may be scanned on entry into the venue to streamline crowd processing. Electronic tickets have become increasingly prevalent in the entertainment industry over the last decade.

In some cases, spectators who want to see a match may not need a printable electronic ticket. If someone with a membership to a football team books a ticket online, the member can just verify his/her reservation with a membership card at the entrance. This is common with teams in the English Premiership League.


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In January 2017 it was reported that Germany's Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Alexander Dobrindt wants to create an electronic ticket to connect public bus and train services as well as parking spaces and potentially car-sharing services across all cities.[8][9][needs update] A nationwide electronic ticket system was introduced in Denmark in 2010, called Rejsekort.

See also


  1. ^ "IATA Press Release No.: 25, Date: 31 May 2008". Archived from the original on 30 December 2019. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  2. ^ Airline codes and ticketing codes
  3. ^ IATA. "IATA - E-Ticketing". Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  4. ^ IATA. "IATA - Page not found". Archived from the original on 12 March 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2017. ((cite web)): Cite uses generic title (help)
  5. ^ "100% Electronic Ticketing Deadline Extension to 31 May 2008". IATA. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
  6. ^ "eTickets Available on All Train Routes - Amtrak". Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Now, SMS from IRCTC is equivalent to e-ticket". The Hindu. Hubli. 27 February 2012. Retrieved Dec 21, 2014.
  8. ^ "Germany plans nationwide e-ticket for all city transport". The Local. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  9. ^ "Öffentlicher Nahverkehr: Dobrindt plant digitale Fahrkarte für alle Städte". Die Zeit. 6 January 2017. Retrieved 6 January 2017.