An e-ticket is an electronic airline ticket, or electronic reservation. A traveler is not issued a traditional paper ticket, but instead, he prints out his reservation information, and often his boarding pass, from e-mail before heading to the airport. In some cases, the ticket can be displayed on a smartphone, using the airline's ticketing application. The reservation is kept in the airline's computer system.
Using this type of ticket saves airlines money because they do not have to spend money and postage issuing paper versions. The e-ticket is also more reliable, since the traveler need not depend on the mail to receive his ticket, or on a ticketing clerk at the airport, who may not know the document was to be held for the traveler at the counter.
An e-ticket can also be cheaper than a paper ticket. U.S. airlines often charge extra fees to issue paper tickets to helps offset printing and postage charges. Older travelers would often rather have a paper ticket, and will pay the extra fee, but most travelers prefer to avoid it.
Using an e-ticket generally involves having the reservation information printed and ready for inspection. If online check-in is available, a traveler is always advised to take advantage of this procedure. If this is not feasible, travelers may be able check in at the electronic kiosk for their airline at the airport, or they can always check in at the ticket counter itself. When checking in at the ticket counter, the traveler will show the reservation information to the agent and have the boarding passes printed out there. An increasing number of airlines are also creating smartphone apps that allow passengers to pull up their e-tickets through the application to show security officials and boarding agents.
Although all major U.S. airlines and most major world airlines use the e-ticket, not all do. It is always advisable for a traveler to check and see if an electronic ticket will be accepted at the ticket counter. This is especially true for travelers flying on a major airline's codeshare partner. The main airline will probably honor the ticket, but the codeshare partner may or may not.
An e-ticket can be purchased directly from an airline's website, from a travel site or from a travel agent. Using one can help prevent the ticket from being lost or stolen, since the reservation remains in the airline's computer system. It's always a good idea to print out reservation information, however, since computers can crash and the traveler may need to show the information to a security agent.