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Airlines see Web as way of future for ticket sales
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Airlines and payment companies are poised to fly high with the growth of e-commerce.

Air China has started to build up its e-commerce channels amid the expected traffic

boom triggered by the Beijing Olympic Games.

The Beijing-based carrier has built 28 international Websites in nine languages to woo more overseas clients during the Games.

The airline has set up a call center in Europe and another is due to open in North America soon.

Air China plans to boost its online and telephone sales, and expects the direct-sales channels to contribute up to 30 percent of its ticket sales by 2010, from just 4 percent this year, said Hu Fajin, senior manager of the airline's e-commerce sales.

He said the airline is aiming big in the sector. "We will offer more bonus mileage points and price cuts on tickets sold by direct sales to attract more clients to self-service options," Hu told Shanghai Daily.

And direct sales are expected to account for half of Air China's tickets by 2014, he said.

Ticket agents are now the main distribution channel for most airlines.

The fact that air tickets are a standard product and are bought with identity cards reduces the risk of online transactions, industry watchers pointed out.

And airline tickets account for about one-eighth of online business-to-consumer transactions in China.

"The popularity of e-tickets helps solve the bottleneck of direct sales," said He Gang, an iResearch Consulting Group senior manager. "The push for e-tickets means there is no logistical need to deliver tickets and largely frees up the sector to boost sales."

E-commerce cuts the cost for merchants and increases their efficiency while consumers can benefit from better deals by airlines, He said.

"The direct-sales model of air tickets will grow rapidly," He predicted.

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