By Michele Howe
Carriers face significant revenue loss and the cancellation of deals in meeting the December 31 deadline.
Middle East airlines could be forced to cancel lucrative deals if they want to meet the industry deadline for issuing all tickets electronically.
The December 31 deadline is thought to pose particular difficulties to 'interlining' agreements, which allow passengers to use multiple airlines on a single journey.
While the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says regional airlines have made good progress in meeting the deadline, the airlines must create interfaces between their different reservation systems before they can issue e-tickets for interline agreements - and with time running out, some carriers are having to prioritise the agreements they work on.
Gulf Air told
that if the deadline held it expected to cancel around 100 of its 200 interline agreements, as it would be unable to do the conversion work needed for the switch to e-ticketing. Saudi Arabian Airlines expects to convert no more than 70 of around 200 paper interline agreements it has to electronic versions in time for the deadline - equivalent to 4% in revenue loss.
While carriers will focus their efforts on those deals that make them the most money, that in turn will mean that some smaller regional carriers will be hit disproportionately hard.
"Interlining is giving and taking," Lars Denlew, Gulf Air's head of distribution and e-commerce, told
. "Some airlines will suffer tremendously because they are dependent on that large airline feeding traffic to their network and that will not be possible to do without an interline e-ticketing agreement."
IATA has mandated the switch to e-ticketing as part of a programme to simplify business models for its 250 member airlines around the world.