Delta Air Lines this month became the fifth of the nine major U.S. carriers to charge for paper tickets.
Delta said it would charge $10 to issue paper tickets requested by customers on itineraries that are eligible for e-tickets, now more than 98% of its flights, said spokesman Anthony Black. Exceptions include code-share flights and a handful of destinations, including Paris and Cancun, Mexico, he said. The fee is waived for full-fare, unrestricted tickets and for SkyMiles Medallion members. American, America West and Continental also charge the $10 fee; Alaska Air charges $20 per ticket order.
Delta cited "increasing costs" for its move and also noted that e-tickets let customers use self-serve kiosks and avoid theft or loss of the ticket. But airline expert Terry Trippler noted a disadvantage: If passengers need to rebook on another airline at the airport, they may have to stand in line to get a paper ticket because competing airlines may not acknowledge another carrier's e-ticket.
But more airlines are accepting e-tickets from other carriers. As of last week, American, Continental, Northwest and United had so-called "interline agreements" with one another. Continental also has an agreement with America West, and United with Air Canada. Delta, US Airways and Southwest don't have such agreements.
Although most airlines say they are trying to get more partners, "it will be a long time before they have e-ticketing agreements with everyone," Trippler says. His advice in the meantime: If you're a business traveler who must get there on time, invest $10 in a paper ticket.