‘E’ Doesn’t Mean Easy

Electronic tickets may leave you disconnected

Gordon Hicks was anxious to get home to Los Angeles following a two-week business trip to the Caribbean. Booked on an American Airlines flight to Atlanta, with a connecting flight to Los Angeles, mechanical problems on the first plane delayed Hicks for seven hours. He would miss his connecting flight to Los Angeles.

On arrival in Atlanta, he (and many other stranded passengers) rushed over to the American Airlines ticket counter. “The agent tried for almost 20 minutes to find me another flight,” Hicks recalls, but because of the late hour–10:30 p.m.–none was available. The American ticket agent called Delta Air Lines and found an open flight scheduled to leave within the hour. “I tried to get the American agent to book it, but she told me she couldn’t.” The American Airlines agent had to print Hicks a paper ticket and endorse it over to Delta Air Lines. He then rushed down to the Delta counter, but the flight sold out in the 20 minutes he waited in line.

Flying direct or nonstop with an e-ticket poses few problems. In fact, consumers find it convenient dealing with less paper. If a flight is canceled or delayed, however, it could take time to search for another flight because most airlines don’t have the interlining agreements that allow one carrier to honor another’s electronic ticket.

Travel expert Peter Greenberg, author of The Travel Detective, says that if Hicks had had a paper ticket, he would have had a “negotiable and tangible document in his hands and could have avoided standing in line.” He could have called American Airlines’ 800 number for alternate flights.

Problems can also arise on code-sharing flights. These are flights in which two airlines agree to sell tickets under one airline code. For example, an American airline may have a code-share agreement with an international carrier for certain destinations. A consumer may not be able to discern which carrier his reservation is on without a paper ticket.

If you request a paper ticket, you may be charged up to $10. In the uncertain travel environment that currently exists, it is worth the cost.

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