Special receipts are to be issued to Chinese air travelers who use "e-tickets" in May in a move to increase the use of electronic ticketing, according to a senior official at the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The development will boost the use of e-tickets because it will allow business travelers to claim back their expenses more easily.
Previously, business travellers had to present their air tickets to get reimbursement, a practice that limited the use of electronic ticketing in China because traditional paper tickets are not issued under this system.
"It will be a breakthrough in the promotion of e-ticketing, which will simplify travel and save costs," Zhang Baojian, the IATA's vice-president for North Asia, told China Daily.
Officials from China's taxation and aviation authorities declined to confirm the news.
IATA China has been actively supporting e-ticketing and hopes to see all tickets issued in this way in China by 2007.
The new system is controlled by the billing and settlement plan (BSP), a system developed by the IATA for the computerized processing of accounts between airlines and ticket agencies.
"BSP China will stop distributing domestic paper tickets from November," Zhang said.
That means travelers will no longer see traditional paper tickets when they buy domestic air tickets from agencies in major Chinese cities.
Agencies currently deal with all airlines through one central point the BSP rather than having to deal with each individual airline.
BSP operates in 150 countries and territories. More than 80 per cent of all worldwide airline revenues are collected through IATA ticket agencies in the BSP system.
BSP was introduced in China in 1997 and most ticket agencies in major Chinese cities now use the system.
E-tickets are already available for 60-70 per cent of air travellers in the United States and more than 30 per cent of the e-tickets are purchased online.
The system is widely regarded as a less stressful form of ticketing because travelers do not need to worry about losing tickets. It also allows them to use self-service check-in kiosks at airports.
"More importantly, it could cut airlines' costs, which is a vital tool in helping them win customers," Zhang said.
Traditional paper tickets cost more because they need to be printed, transported, stored and finally retrieved at airports.
Issuing an e-ticket instead of a normal paper one can save US$9 in the United States and Europe, Zhang said. In China, where labour costs are lower, airlines could save about 20 yuan (US$2.5) for each e-ticket, Zhang said.
At the moment only 21 per cent of BSP-issued tickets in China are e-tickets, according to the latest figures from the IATA.
Traditional purchasing habits and a lack of an e-commerce infrastructure, particularly a sound credit rating system, in China is holding back the growth of e-ticketing, Michael Ching, marketing manager of United Airlines China, told China Daily.
But Zhang said the best way to encourage e-ticketing in China is to promote the system among ticket agencies. "The key is to give travelers more access rather than forcing them to buy e-tickets online," Zhang said.
IATA China has provided agencies with free e-ticketing equipment, training and technical support.
The IATA represents around 265 airlines that account for 94 per cent of international scheduled air traffic.
(China Daily March 8, 2006)