If you haven't flown with a paperless ticket, here's how it works: You make your reservation and receive a confirmation e-mail. Now, you could print up that itinerary, if you need a printed point of reference, but it's not necessary. You could just access that info from your portable device, or jot down the basic on a piece of scrap paper. Then you show up at the airport before your flight and show your ID and a credit card to the nice person behind the counter (or better yet, you swipe it in one of those check-in kiosks). In turn, you'll receive one slip of paper, your boarding pass, which includes all the pertinent info. That's it.
So from a customer standpoint, it's really a lot easier than having to worry about whether your tickets have arrived, or whether you've left them at home on the bed beside the clean underwear you'd meant to pack. Plus with an e-mail confirmation, you can easily get at your details through your wireless device, just in case you've forgotten whether you're taking off at 1:27 a.m. Pacific or Eastern Time.
On a related note, The Boston Globe had an article last month about a company called Flash Seats, which is pushing electronic tickets to concerts, sporting events, and the like.
It works similarly to the e-tickets for airlines: When you order your tickets online, the order is associated with your credit card or identification. And when it's time to go to the game or show, you don't scour the house for the tickets or stand in line at will call; you swipe your credit card or driver's license as you go in. In turn, you get a paper guide telling you where your seats are.
In case your card isn't read, "venue officials verify the person's identity by asking agreed-upon security questions, such as mother's maiden name or first pet's name."
The Cleveland Cavaliers gave the system a spin last season. Participation was voluntary. "About 17 percent of season ticket holders used the system last season, a portion that [increased] to 50 percent during the club's playoff run into the NBA Finals," according to the Boston Globe article.
In addition to reducing paper waste, the system means potentially better control and security. "Team officials say they would like to maintain greater control to improve security, to prevent counterfeiting, and to reclaim some of the money that is going to third-party resellers such as eBay, StubHub, RazorGator, and AceTicket," says the Globe article.
From an end-user perspective, though, you do lose some convenience. Rather than being able to give tickets to friends so they can meet you at a show later, you have to go through the steps of having the electronic tickets transferred to their names, or else be sure that everyone arrives on time to go in together.