Simon Calder: In the future, no one forgets their tickets...

Colombia gets a terrible press. Granted, the most diverse and rewarding nation in South America has deep-rooted problems such as chronic political instability, swathes of poverty and prolific narco-terrorism. But as a traveller you can expect to encounter welcoming people who have your best interests at heart. Usually.

The villain who broke into my hotel room in Cartagena in 1991, however, had his best interests at heart, as he helped himself to my valuables. The travellers' cheques were speedily re-issued by American Express staff for whom it seemed a routine chore. But at the office of the national airline, Avianca, where I went to have the plane ticket reissued, much of a stifling Caribbean day was consumed dismantling the bureaucratic barricade that stood between me and the departure lounge.

Starting a fortnight from today, no one should find themselves facing such a tangle: the paper ticket is about to expire for ever. That, at least, is the plan of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Electronic tickets, where details of your reservation and payment are stored on the airline's computer, have already supplanted the vast majority of paper tickets. Several earlier deadlines for replacing paper documents with e-tickets have been missed, and the chances of every airline in the world abandoning the bureaucratic habits of a lifetime by 1 June are nil. But the average British traveller will never see a paper ticket again.

For most passengers, the move to compulsory e-tickets is welcome: there is nothing to steal, and it accelerates the check-in process.

Travel agents, too, will be happy, according to Haydn Wrath of the round-the-world specialist, Travel Nation: "There isn't a travel agent in the world who will miss those calls for help from customers who have lost their tickets in some far-flung land," he says. "This can be a time when airline alliances are not quite as 'seamless' as their publicity claims." But according to Wrath, e-tickets for tricky round-the-world itineraries will mean passengers will have to pay more or see less.

At present, agents and airlines can issue paper tickets for trips to a maximum of 24 sectors. For e-tickets, the limit is 16 sectors.

You might imagine that 16 flight segments would be enough for anyone. But Wrath estimates that one in 10 round-the-world travellers exceeds the 16-sector limit. One reason is that 16 "sectors" does not necessarily mean 16 separate flights: if you depart from a different city from the one you arrived at, that counts as a "surface" sector. Even though there is no flight, it has to be included in the ticket, consuming a coupon. Example: arriving in San Francisco but driving to Los Angeles to pick up an onward flight uses a sector, as does travelling by train from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok.

So some complicated itineraries will simply not fit a single e-ticket – forcing passengers to pay out more for "side-trip" flights, or to miss out desired destinations.

Haydn Wrath cites a typical 20-sector itinerary, taking in the Far East, Australia, New Zealand (including a surface leg between Auckland and Christchurch), South and North America and the Caribbean, which currently comes in at just short of £2,500.

"Someone wanting this route on a ticket paid for and issued after 31 May would have to pay extra for four of the flights on this itinerary. This would come to around £600. Alternatively, they would have to miss out four flights – or perhaps cut out three and the surface sector in New Zealand by flying in and out of Auckland."

Act now and you can circumvent the problem. Anyone planning a round-the-world trip this year or in early 2009 should book before the end of May and get a paper ticket; as they are valid for up to a year, any itinerary finishing before June 2009 will qualify.

Travelling with one of the last books of flight coupons in the history of aviation could save you hundreds of pounds – or allow you to see more of the world. After all, it would be a shame to leave out Colombia.



The itinerary for which Travel Nation (08453 444 225; www.travelnation.co.uk) quotes a £2,489 fare is: London – Tokyo – Hong Kong – Bangkok – Singapore – Bali – Perth – Ayers Rock – Cairns – Sydney – Christchurch then overland to Auckland – Santiago – Lima – Buenos Aires – Miami – Barbados – San Juan – New York – Chicago – London.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence