I know that almost all tickets nowadays are considered "electronic" tickets, though I've seen that most airlines will charge a paper ticket fee if they have to issue you a paper ticket. Considering that most "electronic" tickets eventually need to be printed into paper boarding passes, what actually constitutes a "paper" ticket, and why do they cost so much vs. electronic tickets?

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    Actually, it has been a couple of years since I've printed out a paper boarding pass. It's easier to scan a barcode on a smartphone screen. Also see Are all airline tickets e-tickets?
    – choster
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 22:44
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    @choster in my experience its easier to receive a barcode boarding pass than to print one, but the difficulty of getting the scanner to read the barcode from my phone far outweighs the difficulty of printing a paper boarding pass.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 22:47
  • Paper tickets are almost entirely dead, with many major airlines having nothing to do with them anymore. Odds are pretty good that you'll never encounter one, especially outside of very small regional operators. Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 23:30
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    @choster - using apps works in some regions but not all, especially when traveling in the third or developing world. Sure in EU, USA, etc apps are easy, but a lot of the world no, especially at remote end destinations where an airline has but one or two flights a day. I have had plenty of boarding passes printed out at the airport because the app couldn't be supported.
    – user13044
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 1:41
  • @Tom I'm hardly saying there's no such thing as paper BPs any more, I'm merely pointing out that the notion that tickets might as well be paper because BPs are generally paper would be faulty even if they were related to one another.
    – choster
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 17:53

1 Answer 1


Keep in mind, a Boarding Pass is in no way like a Paper Ticket. They are completely different instruments and not at all interchangeable.

Also, printed Boarding Passes are becoming less common because of Apps and emailed BP's. I haven't held a printed BP in...well, I don't even remember.

A Paper Ticket is a akin to a bearer instrument, meaning, the paper itself represents value and the airline has to physically deliver the ticket to a clearing agent or convert it back to an e-ticket before they can get paid. This requires manual work by a person and takes time.

The reason airlines charge a fee to print a paper ticket is because they are relatively very expensive to process, compared to an e-ticket. The charge is much higher than the processing cost to discourage printing a ticket. They really, really, really don't want you to get a paper ticket.

To be clear, there are situations where paper tickets/vouchers are necessary and if the agent determines this is necessary, you won't be charged. This has happened to me and it wasn't even clear to the Agent why it was necessary.

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    +1, but you might want to attach an image of an actual paper ticket, I'm sure many young'uns here have never even seen one. Sample: harshbutfair.org/linked/aff/TicketRevalidation.jpg Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 4:36
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    And FWIW, the last time I saw one was circa 2008 when flying out of Redang (RDN) on Berjaya: we had booked a one-way ticket off the island that had to be issued by writing it out by hand on blank stock at the "airport" (hut)! Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 4:39
  • @jpatokal I don't think that stock is even produced anymore. Last time I had a paper ticket, it was printed on the same paper as boarding passes.
    – DTRT
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 4:53
  • @Johns-305: There was an era (after the carbon-copy coupons jpatokal shows) where the paper ticket in ATB format was the bording pass -- additional information would be printed on the ticket coupon at check in, and at the gate it would be separated (along a perforated like) into a ticket coupon which the airline kept, and a boarding pass stub that you would keep. In many airports, paper boarding passes are still issued on cardboard stock with an ATB form factor (so the same printers could be reused). Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 13:24
  • ... and less than two years ago, I was issued a replacement boarding pass at the gate in SFO printed on actual ATB2 stock. Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 13:26

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