Electronic tickets were supposed to simplify our trips, lessen our worries and save trees in the process. Instead, they often create more problems than they solve. Troubles with transferability, concerns about fraud and other technological glitches have stopped many frequent travelers from going ticketless.
All that could change. In April, a new company called EncrypTix will start giving you the option of printing encrypted airline tickets and boarding passes from a PC. Ultimately, its vision is to store encoded ticket information on cell phones or personal digital assistants and "beam" it to gate agents. "Acceptance and trust of wireless devices will soon prevail," predicts Jim Rowan, the company's founder and CEO. "It's just a matter of time."
It's too soon to tell which travel suppliers will accept these newfangled boarding passes, or even whether this service will solve some of the challenges that travelers continue to have with electronic tickets. At press time, Rowan said a number of airlines, hotels and car rental companies will start taking the printed tickets in early 2001, although he won't say which ones. The company hasn't said when its "beamable" tickets will be ready.
If consumer surveys are any indication, the EncrypTix plan could take off. More business travelers are interested in ticketless travel, according to the Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown/Yankelovich Partners National Business Travel Monitor. It finds that 59 percent of road warriors consider electronic tickets "very desirable" in an airline, a jump of two percentage points from 1999. Meanwhile, 62 percent of corporate travelers carry cell phones when traveling and another 34 percent travel with beepers-devices that could, in theory, interface with a new ticketing system.
It remains to be seen whether EncrypTix represents the final word in ticket delivery. More likely, it's a necessary intermediate step that will usher in an age in which electronic tickets can truly be called electronic.
Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at www.elliott.org.
- Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown/Yankelovich Partners National Business Travel Monitor, www.ypb.com