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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones