Once Upon a Time, Airlines Did Not Use E-Tickets
When exactly did the E-Ticket get its start? This is something we wondered the other day, while happening upon a stash of some of our old Northwest Airlines (RIP) boarding passes (above). It seems like E-Tickets have just always been around and, indeed, even the internet is confused of their true history; AirTreks says it was Southwest Airlines in 1994, The Discovery Channel thinks it was ValuJet in 1993 and the IATA is sure that United was the trailblazer in 1994.
In any case, it's been quite a while since paper tickets were the norm and thank god for that. Gone are the days when travel agents used to call you to come pick up your little booklet of paper tickets. Gone are the days when you cared more about misplacing those than misplacing your secret pocket fannypack full of Traveller's Cheques. Gone are the days of always waiting in line to check in at the airport. Once again, we say thank god.
E-Tickets have been the name of the game across the board since 2008, and yet flyers still aren't sure what exactly they are. They are not your ticket if you book online. They are something else. AirTreks clarifies things:
An E-ticket is really nothing more than a reservation in an airline’s computer system, one that advises them you have a ticketed seat confirmed on a particular flight.
When you’re issued an E-ticket there’s also a receipt that is printed out afterward. The e-ticket receipt looks similar to an old-style paper ticket but doesn’t need to be presented at the check-in counter on the day of your flight. It only serves as proof that your ticket was issued.
While the jury is still out on awarding an airline the title of First to Use E-Tickets, we at least can lay to rest any curiosity over the originator of the Mobile Boarding Passes: Continental (also RIP).