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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of, a
non-commercial Web site for business travelers.


Paper tickets are gone. Paper boarding passes are next: It’s more symbolic than real, but the airlines‘ worldwide trade group, the International Air Transport Association said that June 1 was the day that paper airline tickets were officially retired. That’s when E-tickets were supposed to become the worldwide standard, although not all carriers in the developing world are IATA members. The end of paper tickets — which used to cost airlines about $10 a passenger to "reconcile" and process — will also mark the moment when most of us start paying attention to the next paperless frontier: boarding passes.

At least two U.S. carriers, Continental and Northwest, and the Transportation Security Administration are testing electronic boarding passes. The boarding authority is sent by the airline to your cellphone or smartphone/PDA and the TSA scans the bar code from the device’s screen. Air Canada is testing paperless boarding passes, too. And at least three major international carriers, Lufthansa, All Nippon and bmi, are also testing paperless boarding passes. In fact, Lufthansa says that it will introduce electronic boarding passes on most German domestic routes by mid-summer.


All the cuts that are fit to print: The surging price of oil has led the airlines to plan deep cuts in their route networks and service offerings. American Airlines, which has been shrinking for years, is picking up the pace on its cutbacks. It promises to be about 10 percent smaller by the end of the year. What’s going? So far, the airline has announced it will drop two long-haul routes from its Chicago hub (Buenos Aires on September 1 and Honolulu on January 5) and two point-to-point nonstop (Boston-San Diego on September 3 and New York/Kennedy-London/Stansted on July 2). Also going: a huge, but as yet undefined, chunk of its Caribbean hubs in Miami and San Juan.

Horizon Air, the commuter carrier of Alaska Airlines, is dropping two routes (Butte-Seattle and Billings-Portland), reducing frequencies on eight more and combining its Boise nonstops to San Jose and Sacramento into a Boise-Sacramento-San Jose service. US Airways eliminated free snacks on domestic coach flights June 1.

Meanwhile, United Airlines said this week that it will shrink dramatically during the next 18 months. Among the cuts: grounding about 100 planes (all of the airline’s Boeing 737s and a half-dozen Boeing 747s). Also going: Ted, the all-coach airline-within-an-airline concept. Ted routes that survive the airline-wide domestic capacity cut of about 17 percent will be served with United Express commuter flights or traditional United jets configured with first, Economy Plus and coach seats. The capacity cuts (about 5 percent of United’s international seats will go, too) include abandoning the Los Angeles-Hong Kong route, sharp reductions at the Denver hub, and the end of all flights to/from Anchorage.

Continental Airlines is shrinking, too. By the end of the year, domestic departures will be down 16 percent and there will be about 4 percent fewer international flights. The airline is dumping 67 of its oldest Boeing 737s.

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Copyright 2008 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.

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