“I Just Need Your Paper Ticket, Please”

Yesterday I flew from Toronto to Brussels in Jet Airways business class. Despite a few hiccups, it was a pleasant flight all around, and exceeded my expectations.

From there I had a three hour layover before my connecting flight to Doha in Qatar Airways business class.

When I checked in with Jet Airways at Toronto Airport I only received a boarding pass as far as Brussels, which is what I expected given that Jet Airways and Qatar Airways don’t partner.

Jet-Airways-Brussels-Airport
Jet Airways Toronto Airport check-in

Qatar Airways doesn’t have a transit desk in Brussels, so I headed to the British Airways Lounge for my three hour layover. The plan was to then head to the gate a bit over an hour before departure to retrieve my boarding pass once the gate had “opened.”

British-Airways-Lounge-Brussels
British Airways Lounge Brussels Airport

My flight to Doha was at 11AM, and at 9:45AM I left the lounge for the gate. As I walked up to the gate with my passport in hand, the gate agent said “Mr. Schlappig?” She knew my name… odd.

Qatar-Airways-Gate
Qatar Airways gate Brussels Airport

Agent: “Let’s get you checked in here, I just need your paper ticket, please.”
Me: “A paper ticket? I’m on an electronic ticket issued by American.”
Agent: “Hmmm. I saw that this was originally issued as an electronic ticket, but it looks like you requested for it to be converted into a paper ticket at some point.”

At this point two thoughts went through my head:

  • Was someone being malicious? In the past I’ve had people change and cancel my tickets, so was that the case here?
  • Did the delay in Philadelphia cause this? On the same award ticket I was flying from Philadelphia to Toronto and had a four hour delay. When it finally came time to board over four hours late it was past midnight, so since it was the following calendar day the boarding pass reader was rejecting everyone’s boarding passes since it showed the date as being invalid. As a result were passengers never correctly loaded onto the flight, meaning onwards flights were canceled/something weird happened?

Me: “So I know what a paper ticket is and can assure you I never requested that. My only thought is that one of the previous flights on the reservation was delayed by four hours and the agent was having problems with the computer, so maybe that caused this?”

At this point boarding was well underway, and she hopped on the phone. First she called Jet Airways to see if they had done something with the ticket. They told her to call American instead, so she called around the airport trying to find an American ticket agent at the airport… only to realize American doesn’t fly to Brussels anymore.

Then she called US Airways, who said they had nothing to do with it either.

At this point the gate supervisor was getting antsy since they were on the final boarding call, so she made a phone call. After a bit of pressure my ticket was “released” in such a way that I could board the flight, and I was among the last aboard.

I’ve dealt with a lot of ticketing oddities, but this was the first time this had happened to me. I’m still not sure if someone was trying to be malicious, or if this was a function of flying an American issued ticked for travel on US Airways, Jet Airways, and Qatar Airways, and having some operational issues.

Qatar-Airways-787
Qatar Airways 787

It all ended well, and after thanking the agents and commenting what a high pressure job they have, I was onboard what is hands down the most gorgeous 787 in the skies…

Qatar-Airways-787-1
Qatar Airways 787 business class cabin

Has anyone ever had a similar situation happen on an award ticket, or have a theory as to what happened?

Comments

  1. No theories here. Just sympathy. There are some weirdos out there with nothing better to do apparently. Some jerk called up and canceled my doctor’s appointment last week. I think businesses etc. are ultimately going to have to be more proactive about calling back customers phone number of record to see if they actually requested the cancellation or other unusual inconvenience (like paper tickets). There are just too many sick puppies on the loose.

  2. Not with award tickets. But I fly KLM from IAD about three times a year and check in is always horrible. They claim I have a paper ticket, even though I have an e-ticket.

    We go back and forth for half an hour before a manager fixes it. It’s very strange.

  3. That is odd. I didn’t think you could have an e-ticket converted to a paper ticket unless a fee was paid? That would require a credit card for payment at the time of the request.

  4. It looks like Jet Airways generated an IATCI message (and hence changed the coupon status) even though they didn’t issue a boarding pass. So Qatar Airways could see coupon had been lifted and assumed it was done as a PRINT EXCHANGE transaction. It can be rectified by claiming the coupon and manually resetting the status to OPEN and then pushing it to DCS under AIRPORT CONTROL or CHECKIN status in that order. There should be an open endorsement between AA/QR as oneworld partners so that is my guess how they solved it in the end.

  5. Had this happen to me last year on a Delta+Air Europa ticket during an IRROP. Delta flight delay caused me to misconnect in Madrid … Air Europa met us at the jet bridge and provided us with our new itineraries and printed tickets. Right then I knew we were going to have trouble.

    Oddly enough, my wife’s return ticket was fine, but of course mine was not. At the airport 2.5 hours before departure, spending almost 2 hours at check-in/ticketing where Delta said it was in Air Europa’s control and vice-versa we finally got the duty manager to come and get it sorted. I couldn’t even get the Delta rep to talk to the Air Europa rep.

    … fast forward to now where I flew CX Y on an BA award ticket with my AA EXP # on the PNR and the in-flight service manager came up to me twice during a 2 hour flight to make sure everything was ok with the service I was receiving and then thanked me by name as I walked off the plane. Thank you dAArk side 🙂

  6. Weird story, glad they let you on 🙂

    Paper ticket issue aside, did you ever figure out how they knew it was you walking up?

  7. @ Sunrise089 — Well I think they knew there was an issue with my ticket, so when I walked up to the gate with purpose (I walk like a German ;-)) and my passport visible, I guess they made assumptions.

  8. I was flying with Qatar Amman/Doha/london last week,i booked my tiket online while in Beirut and had issues once arrived to Amman as Royal Jordanian couldnt issue boarding pass when i arrived from Beirut,they sent an agent to Qatar check inn desk out of transit area,they refused,i print my boarding pass at lounge and was denied boarding as i never presented myself with the credit card used for payment online.

  9. All airlines blame the previous flight’s airline for doing something to the ticket. Gate agents, even gate supervisors can’t see all the data and probably not be able to fix if they can see the problem. So the agents assume that Jet Airways or you made some change to your ticket. Then you have to get a manager to do the fix. Presenting yourself over an hour before departure, allows time for all the gyrations. That becomes the biggest issue, as your problem needs time to be sorted out. Why didn’t you ask the BA lounge personnel to issue you a boarding pass? Qatar is a oneworld carrier, so BA should have been able to fix your issue.

  10. @ JohnB — Because a BA lounge agent can’t print a QR boarding pass if the ticket wasn’t issued by them and there’s no travel on them. That’s pretty standard.

  11. Well, Lucky if it can happen to you, then it can happen to any one of us. Moral of the post, if travelling on multi-airline ticket, check in as early as possible. I never do airline tickets like this, so I haven’t had this issue. So, between the gate agent knowing who you are and then the ticket discrepancy, I would feel a bit unnerved.

  12. I had an issue similar to this this traveling from India to Bangkok on a US Air reward ticket on Thai Airlines. Was a pain in the ass but worked out in the end.

  13. http://airtravel.about.com/cs/bookitonline/a/paperelectronic.htm

    ———–

    That particular article seems to be selling a questionable assumption based on a misunderstanding of an anecdotal event from a bygone era. In most respects the loss of paper tickets is a good thing. Unless you enjoyed the thought of casually carrying thousands of dollars in the form of a paper coupon that could be turned in by anyone. Signing over a paper ticket to another airline sounds great at first but in actual experience it wasn’t always the best solution and sometimes set you back even further than when you started.

  14. I recommend to always fly with Papertickets and not electronic. Not only is the real McCoy just that, but also, lets say your flight is stuck, you just walk over to another carrier, and they will gladly except your paper (even if they have to get endorsements after you took of), IATA carriers have not changed the
    interline rules, and PAPER is what First-Class-Pax with OPEN Tickets use, because a F-Class ticket cannot be issued OPEN electronically, and, by the way, crews have mostly paper to fly with. Thus, the REAL people fly paper. The once who wanna/gonna get stuck , fly loaded dice (or stacket cards) that
    need a bothersome reissue by untrained airline folks. Furthermore, lets say you fly out of Havanna to connect to BA in Nassau back to Londo, Havanna check in people will not check your bags interline through to LHR, unless you HAVE PAPER to show. A print out will not do. That rule plays in at least 40 countries when connecting via a third country, even if TIMATIC says OK.

  15. We once got delayed in Nairobi flying to London on Alitalia via Rome (in the early 1990’s). There was a strike and the Italian gate agent was overwhelmed so as we were based in Nairobi at the time, we simply went home and tracked the situation from there. This involved phoning Rome HQ (no internet in Kenya then) and they were very curious as to why I couldn’t get any info from the agent. Anyhow they asked us to be back at the airport at a certain time the next morning which we did. The agent was totally malicious and threatening so I suppose they had given him a talking to. Well, sorry, but he was awful. But then… he started to mess with my wife’s passport saying ” eh, this is izza no valido, this photo coming off the page…” but prising it off as he was saying it. I yelled at him to stop and said if he carried on I would have him arrested because you cant damage passports – its against the law.

    So he gives us boarding passes and we get on the plane. In Rome we were detained in a room and separated and my wife interrogated at gun point by the carabineri. Eventually let on the connecting flight, she was in tears. In London on the way back I was referred to airport police. Sir, he says, our records show that you have been coming through this airport for years so why suddenly are you a security risk? What?? I explained the Nairobi incident and he shook his head in disbelief and called the airline to get the tickets re-issued. The agent had put a three letter code “SEC” i.e. security on our tickets. Clearly deliberate.

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