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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

E-Tix for the Skies and Rails

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For those used to flying with the cheap convenience of Western carriers such as Ryanair, EasyJet or AirBerlin, paper tickets may seem like a throw-back to some primordial period.

However, up until now, these antediluvian legacies of a pre-Internet age have remained a fact of life in Russia, where many companies have lagged far behind their Western competitors.

The reliance on paper tickets has typically meant inconvenient trips to airline offices, standing in lines and frustration for potential air passengers.

Now, however, the e-ticketing revolution that long ago swept through the United States and Western Europe has finally hit Russia. And hopefully it will bring increased passenger convenience along with it.

In the vanguard of the mini revolution was Russian carrier Transaero.

In March, Transaero became the first Russian airline to start offering e-tickets to a handful of destinations around the country.

Now other mainstream Russian carriers, including Aeroflot and S7, have followed suit.

After more than a year of preparatory work S7, formerly known as Sibir, started up an e-ticket service in April.

Billed as "an important and significant step in the development of Russian civil aviation" by S7's general director, Vladislav Filyov, the introduction of e-tickets looks set to change the sector.

"S7 passengers can now buy tickets in the same way as millions of people in other countries," Filyov said.

And from June 1, national giant Aeroflot joined the pack when it introduced e-tickets for 40 destinations worldwide, ranging from Baku to Berlin and Los-Angeles to London.

Prompting the current rush to e-tickets are new demands from the International Air Transport Association.

Under IATA rules, all member airlines, including Aeroflot, S7, Transaero, Vladivostok Air and Volga-Dnepr Airlines, must offer only e-tickets by early 2008.

Aeroflot has recently pledged to stop issuing paper tickets by July 2008.

According to IATA statistics, 88 percent of passengers worldwide say that they prefer e-tickets to the old-fashioned paper tickets. Customers cite not needing to bring tickets when they check-in, receiving email confirmation and the accessibility of e-tickets as the major bonuses of the system.

And the savings are not just for the customers. Beyond the increased convenience, the IATA says that e-ticketing will save the global aviation industry as a whole a staggering $3 billion annually.


Chris Warde-Jones / Bloomberg
Under IATA rules, all member airlines must offer only e-tickets by early next year.
Despite the raft of companies switching to the new format, the IATA report highlights some teething problems in setting up e-ticketing for infants traveling by plane. Some websites do not offer the facilities to book both an infant and a child fare, meaning that if you have one child under 2 and one over 2 but under 12, you cannot book them both at the same time.

In addition to the new e-ticketing service, airlines are now offering extra online services including online check-in, meaning that you can select your seat and print out your boarding pass from home.

In an attempt to entice new customers to the Internet, the airlines are offering a range of online discounts. Aeroflot, for example, offers a 3 percent discount for anyone booking over its website.

But several problems have held back the e-ticket phenomenon in Russia.

One major sticking point for the introduction of e-ticketing in Russia was outmoded legislation that did not recognize e-tickets as official proof of purchase. This ultimate legislative obstacle was finally smoothed out last year.

Other Russian peculiarities have also put the brakes on e-ticketing. Firstly, the lack of a credit card culture means that many people simply do not have the means to book flights over the Internet and need to pay in cash and in person.

Also, there is a lack of faith in the Internet, with a common perception that the Internet in Russia is more susceptible to attacks from hackers.

These old habits and prejudices appear to die hard, with some Russians still demanding paper copies of tickets bought over the Internet despite emailed assurances.

These problems mean that some companies have had to be very inventive in the way they offer e-tickets.

One example is the low-cost domestic airline Sky Express. Having begun operating in March, the budget carrier is trying to follow the model of Western budget airlines, meaning that cutting costs at the point of sale are paramount.

Beyond the Internet, Sky Express offers potential customers the possibility of booking tickets at an ingenious range of locations, including outlets of bank VTB 24, cell phone retailers Yevroset and the post office.

And it is not only airlines that are turning to e-tickets. Now the Russian Railways, or RZhD, is hitting the web. Tickets for all long-distance routes went on sale over the Internet from mid-May.

To buy tickets over the web, you need to simply register at RZhD's homepage (pass.rzd.ru), and store a user name and password. Both VISA and MasterCard are accepted and safety is guaranteed, an RZhD statement said. A service charge of 120 rubles is added to the ticket cost.

For foreign customers, the website should go multi-lingual by the end of the year.

Unlike with the airlines, however, rail passengers still have to pick up a paper ticket before departure. Those who have paid for tickets over the Internet have to present a reservation code and proof of identification to a cashier.

To do this, RZhD recommends that passengers arrive at the station no less than one hour before the departure time. In the first month of offering the service, from May to June, 8,219 tickets were sold over the Internet.