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In general, an e-ticket is any sort of ticket that is issued from a vendor to a consumer electronically. Most electronic tickets are delivered via e-mail, though they may also be sent via text message directly to a mobile phone. They’re almost always accessible with a confirmation code, typically a unique combination of letters and numbers. Electronic ticketing is perhaps most common for air and rail travel, though it can also be used for things like concerts, sporting events, and other ticketed venues. Vendors often find that they save money by delivering tickets electronically, and it’s often more convenient for the consumer, too.
The term “E ticket” also has an unrelated meaning in the context of Disney parks and resorts, or at least it did several decades ago. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, visitors to either Disneyland in California or Disneyworld in Florida had to purchase individual tickets, or coupons, for each ride. The E ticket provided access to the best and more popular rides, and was generally the most coveted. Disney discontinued the coupon system in the early 1980s, though it does sell passes electronically for visitors today.
The basic concept of electronic ticketing was introduced in the 1990s, and the idea underlying the shift from paper-based ticketing to that which is stored digitally is credited to Joel R. Goheen, the owner of JRG Airlines, located in Palm Beach County, Florida. At first, digitally issued tickets were a rarity. Today, however, they are ubiquitous, not just in air travel but in nearly every instance in which a ticket must be purchased and presented.
On 1 June 2008, airports and airlines in the United States switched exclusively to an electronic ticketing system. An e-ticket is now used at every airport in America to represent the purchase of a seat on a flight, and most other nations have similar policies. Digitally encrypted tickets are usually thought to offer greater security and better protections against forgery and counterfeiting. They also offer more protections if physical tickets are lost or misplaced, since the value is in the code more than the physical paper on which it’s printed.
In nearly ever sense, electronic tickets work in just the same ways as paper tickets. Ticket holders are generally issued a confirmation code when making their purchase. From here there are usually a couple of options. Sometimes that code can be entered onto the vendor’s website to generate a printable ticket. Other times, the code must be entered on specific kiosks at the station, airport, or concert venue in order to print the physical pass on site.
Increasingly, however, many venues don’t actually require a physical printout. The most modern e-tickets can be stored entirely on a customer’s mobile device, often as a secure screen that displays both the confirmation code and a unique barcode that security personnel can scan straight from the device. Many apps provide ticket storage for easy access.
Before the electronic was introduced in the 1990s an E ticket had an entirely different meaning. From the 1950s to the 1980s, an E ticket was used at Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks as a means of accessing certain rides. These tickets were part of a coupon book that patrons purchases with admission: at that time, park admission was a flat fee that didn’t include most rides and attractions. Tickets were issued in denominations of A, B, C, D, and E; the E tickets were used to gain access to the most in demand, expensive, and newest rides. Disney stopped making the coupon books that contained E tickets in 1982. All worldwide Disney parks do offer standard e-tickets today, however, which work in the same ways as any other electronic tickets.