|Subject: Re: ZINE buying airline tickets on-line|
Generally, buying airline tickets on-line can be less expensive. But, like all things involving airline tickets it is not a hard and fast rule. When I'm shopping for tickets I check all sources (the Internet, the airlines, and a travel agent) to establish a base fare. Then I proceed to try and beat it. This may involve a lengthy wait in which I keep closely apprised of discount fares and investigate consolidators and Internet auctions. My experience has been that Internet fares come in lower. I'm sure other Ziners have had different experiences.
As for safety, I have no qualms about it. Every site I've ever bought from transfers the buyer to a secure encrypted link before financial information is exchanged. Of course, there is always the potential for a dishonest employee who is handling the transaction to use or pass along your credit card information, but that is true of any credit card transaction one makes.
Now for the paper ticket. It used to be that the airlines (or Internet agents, such as Travelocity) would send the buyer a printed receipt. That is no longer the case. Generally what the buyer of an e-ticket does now is to print a copy of the receipt direct from their screen while finishing the transaction on-line. Here in the U.S. one must show proof of ticketing prior to passing through airport security on the way to the gate. Boarding passes, tickets, and these Internet receipts have all been accepted. In this way, one can still get the boarding passes at the gate (if not checking luggage). The trend here in the States is to push the e-tickets. It is cheaper for the airlines. In fact, just recently I believe U.S. Air has started charging a $25 dollar fee for processing paper tickets (of course, they are in the throes of bankruptcy and are attempting to generate revenue in every way).
One of the negative aspects of e-tickets is when one's flight is canceled. The reciprocal plan airlines have with carrying a competitors passengers in this kind of event makes it necessary to have a paper ticket. In which case, e-ticket holders have to go through the process of having a paper ticket generated before approaching the alternative carrier. This, of course, means that those passengers already holding paper tickets will be first in line for available seats. Personally, I've never had to go through this scenario and think it is kind of rare. But it is something of which you should be aware.
Hope this helps,
John in San Diego