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Paper tickets don't fly at Delta

Passengers who choose not to buy electronic tickets now face a higher fee for getting the paper variety, as the airline seeks to cut costs.

Delta Air Lines wants all of its customers to go electronic--and plans to make them pay if they don't.

Starting Thursday, the airline is raising the fee it charges for paper tickets from $10 per ticket to $20. And the charge now applies to all tickets, regardless of a buyer's frequent-flier status or the type of fare purchased. The fee will also be assessed on tickets originally issued, reissued or converted by a travel agent.

Atlanta-based Delta said that about 80 percent of its customers worldwide already use electronic tickets.

The higher fee is part of a broader change that includes a new policy eliminating the ability of customers to makes changes to nonrefundable tickets by paying an additional fee. Delta, following a similar move by US Airways, said that tickets for nonrefundable fares will have no value and cannot be changed or used for any purpose after the departure date.

Delta first kicked off the paper-ticket fees in May, saying it would help cut costs. E-tickets had been increasing in popularity in recent years but suffered a setback after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, when federal regulators tightened security rules regarding the tickets.

Airlines are still pushing for e-tickets, however. Continental Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways all charge fees for customers requesting paper tickets on fares eligible for e-tickets. American and United have both said they plan to phase out paper tickets entirely--the former by the end of 2003 and the latter by January 2004.