News: BA's e-tickets; Ryanair's tougher deadlines

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Wave goodbye to your British Airways tickets

British Airways has announced that it will phase out paper tickets from 1 April. The airline has taken out advertisements in the trade press warning agents not to supply customers with a paper ticket when an "e-ticket" could be issued. Any that do not comply with this cost-cutting measure will pay a £25 penalty.

Not all BA routes are ready for "virtual" ticketing, although BA intends to make its network fully e-ticket capable by the end of the year. Agents are permitted to issue paper tickets for flights on which passengers have an open ticket or are wait-listed, and for itineraries involving airlines other than BA - including those operated by its "codeshare" partners. Electronic tickets, first pioneered in Britain by easyJet nine years ago, are popular with passengers. They cannot be lost, and can be amended easily - the airline's website, www.ba.com, now has a "manage my booking" option that enables passengers to make online changes.

* BA passengers at Heathrow face terminal confusion from tomorrow. The airline is shuffling one in five of its flights at the UK's busiest airport.

The key departures to Hong Kong, Los Angeles and San Francisco are shifting from Terminal Four to One, together with services to Athens and Moscow; flights to Brussels, Copenhagen, Lyon, Oslo and Vienna move in the opposite direction. Geneva and Zürich flights will use either Terminal Two (for codeshare services operated by Swiss), or Terminal Four for those flown by "real" BA. Terminal Three is used for BA's flights to Miami. Good luck.

Ryanair's tougher deadlines

From tomorrow, passengers on one of Europe's biggest no-frills airlines must allow more time to reach the airport. Ryanair has followed easyJet in imposing a 40-minute check-in deadline across its network. The airline says that the combination of summer crowds and tighter airport security has led to the change.

When Ryanair and easyJet began flying, the check-in deadline for all flights was 20 minutes. When stricter security was imposed following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the deadline was extended to half an hour. Last year, easyJet increased its minimum to 40 minutes at every airport it serves.

Ryanair retained a half-hour limit except for departures from Stansted. But now, the Irish airline is raising the minimum to 40 minutes at all its airports.

At some of the small airports Ryanair serves, the policy seems absurd; at tiny terminals such as Baden-Baden and Beauvais, the total processing time between check-in and departure gate can be measured in seconds, rather than minutes. But evidence from travellers suggests that check-in deadlines on both airlines are being imposed stringently on fliers who are a minute or two late. According to the airlines' terms, your booking is then regarded as cancelled without notice and they have no further responsibility towards you. In practice, Ryanair will generally charge a £40 "missed departure fee" to book you on the next available flight; easyJet reserves the right to make you pay, but will often waive the charge.

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