Say Goodbye to Paper Ticket

From yesterday, CATA (China Air Transportation Association) stopped providing paper ticket to ticket agents. This is an event that will eventually affect my life, and many others.

This is a great achievement. When the Southern China Airlines started e-ticket testing in 2000, 6 years past. The user behavior changes slowly, and till now, paper ticket is still 70% of all tickets.

My guess is, from today, travel agents cannot purchase blank paper ticket from CATA. They must have a lot of tickets in stock that they can continue to print out. However, by the end of this year, when most of the paper tickets in stock are used up, the travel agencies have to transit to using electronic tickets.

I am expecting more people using e-tickets and recognize e-ticket.


One of the key issue with e-ticket is, it does not work with the current reimbursement practice. In U.S. and other countries, a receipt can be of any form – a piece of paper with handwriting numbers, or printed receipt from a teller machine. In China, however, only government agencies can issue blank invoices, and merchants fill in the blanks on the standard format invoice. Originally paper tickets are type of that “official invoice”.

My friends in U.S. thought the invoice in China is like money note. That is true (with very high-tech anti-fake technology in it).

The e-ticket caused the problem. In many countries, you can just print out the receipt and reimburse with the paper. This is not working.

To meet this need, the travel agents are thinking of ways to workaround it. I believe finally, people still have to go somewhere to get a paper ticket. The blank tickets may still be bought from government, and the travel agents fill in the departing, arriving cities, and the price. This may be even done after the travel. In this case, the paper ticket is not used as part of the travel experience, it is all about the reimbursement (and sometimes tax) experience.

Another example of how the less-developed industry/process (the tax and reimbursement) stops fast pacing industry (airlines) from going faster.

4 thoughts on “Say Goodbye to Paper Ticket

  1. E tickets and payment – cash on delivery or credit cards?

    JianShou, your two recent posts on E tickets and Cash payment are interesting. Until now when I have been in China on business I have always booked my tickets at hotel business centres – in my experience good 3 star hotels seem to have one. OK, they charge a booking fee but I do not speak Chinese enough to survive anywhere else. Its always been easy – about 15 minutes, payment in cash and its done.

    I am currently in China and ordered tickets the other day. They went to the computer and showed me available flights on . I was charged 860 RMB plus booking fee of 15oRMB. When the “ticket” arrived it was not a ticket — like you said — but a receipt for my money, with a E ticket number printed.

    OK, I thought, I can do that with elong – and save 150RMB!!! I already use elong for hotel booking and its been great!! So last night for my next flight I tried to book tickets nanjing to Beijing. I got to the point on the web where I was expecting to give credit card details, and instead I was asked for my address so they could deliver the ticket and collect cash!! However I went ahead. This morning there were two emails from elong, and one from my son in England saying they had called and wanted to confirm details. I called, spent 30 minutes on the phone, going over the details I had already given and was then asked for details of how they could deliver the “ticket” and collect cash, and when I would be available. I was not able to wait around so they said they would take my credit card details. They then again wanted to know where they could deliver the ticket. Ten minutes later I got an email in Chinese which I assume had the details of the ticket. Then I had an email asking me to call to confirm credit card details and also fax images of my credit card. To send a fax I would have to go to the business centre. And I would sttill have to wait around for the deliver of the E ticket!! So at that point I replied asking them to cancel the ticket.

    I went to the business centre and got the ticket in 15 minutes!! It will be delivered to my room tonight.

    All of that is to say, visitors to China would be well advised for now not to waste time with E Tickets!! I want to say I do not intend to criticise the system here. Chinese financial transactions are improving all the time, but security is obviously not yet good enough to enable reliable and secure credit card transactions carried out entirely on line and paperless E tickets delivered by email. I am sure China will get there. Its much easier now in 1997 when I used to have to make my way across town to buy a ticket!! But I just need to continue for now to use the business centre!

    But visitors from the UK, America, etc. who expect an e ticket to be in their email inbasket after 10 minutes on line may have to wait a while yet.

  2. i love to have two of the plane ticket from from accra to hongkong.and need to know more detaile from your side. details together with the amount of everything becouse the payment is ready and will be in visa card.HOPE TO HEAR FROM YOU.

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