While virtually all airline tickets in the US nowadays are electronic (unlike back in the day when you had paper tickets, where you needed to surrender a voucher to get on the plane), US airlines do still issue some paper vouchers. Or perhaps more accurately, American does, as I don’t believe that Delta and United issue paper vouchers under many circumstances anymore.
For example, say you need to change an American flight and you end up rebooking a flight that’s significantly cheaper than your original flight. American Airlines will issue you a credit for that by mailing you a voucher for the difference in fare.
Why do they do this? I suspect it’s a combination of factors:
- This is how they’ve been doing things for a long time, and generally it’s just easier to maintain the status quo than to change anything
- I suspect an even bigger factor is that paper vouchers have much higher breakage — people lose them, people find them too complicated to use (you either have to bring them to an airport or mail them in), etc.
So there’s some great news on that front. American will be transitioning from paper vouchers to electronic vouchers for all functions performed through their reservations center (meaning any function that requires calling). While this is initially being rolled out next week, I’m told that the rollout will continue into 2019, so you may still come across paper vouchers over the next year.
At this time airport vouchers aren’t being transitioned to electronic. For example, this means that if you’re voluntarily denied boarding on a flight, you’ll continue to receive paper vouchers that you’ll have to redeem within a year either by mailing them in or by going to an airport ticketing desk.
This is a positive development, so here’s to hoping they eventually go all electronic.