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theAviationGeek
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United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Mon May 13, 2019 5:53 am

I am wondering if anyone has any old United Airlines tickets, boarding passes, or itinerary documents from the late 1980's through the late 1990's.

I grew up flying United frequently during this period; however, it wasn't until 2002 that I began keeping all of my boarding passes. If I recall correctly, a typical United paper ticket would consist of an itinerary on blue ticket stock, followed by the paper flight coupons and receipt all on a grayish and blue magnetic strip ticket stock.

So far online, I have only found one example of a boarding pass from the inaugural United 777-200 flight in 1995 as well as a poster on eBay promoting United's new E-Ticket service circa 1995.

I am hoping there are some others out there who may have kept their old tickets and would be willing to share them here, or possibly offline if that's your preference.

Also, if anyone has any pictures or information regarding United's old airport computer equipment I would be interested to learn more about a typical Apollo workstation setup. I seem to recall their old ticket printers being quite large and noisy.

I appreciate any information on the subject.

Ryan
 
atomicstar
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Mon May 13, 2019 11:24 am

That sounds interesting. If you can, can you send a link to the eBay listing for the poster?

And adding on to this, I also am curious about when United began using barcoded tickets for identification and validation purposes. But as for the computer setup pictures, I cannot find any online.
 
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theAviationGeek
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Wed May 22, 2019 8:17 am

atomicstar wrote:
That sounds interesting. If you can, can you send a link to the eBay listing for the poster?


I'll attach some photos and links to what I have been able to find in my search thus far.

Again, if anyone has any old United Airlines tickets, itineraries, and/or boarding passes (from the late 1980's-mid/late 1990's), I would be very interested in seeing them.

Here is a photo (and a link to) of the eBay listing for the United Airlines E-Ticket Poster:

Image

https://www.ebay.com/itm/1995-print-ad-United-Airlines-with-E-Ticket-theres-no-paper-ticket-to-remember/362608384117?hash=item546d24d875:g:Dc8AAOSwWuNbX4LH

Here is a sample itinerary document which was stapled to the front of a United Airlines paper ticket:

Image

This particular example appears to have been issued by a travel agency; however, those issued directly from United were quite similar.
Those issued by United would also have service icons near the seat assignments:
  • A cup icon for beverage service
  • A plate with silverware icon for meal service
  • A musical note icon for audio/music onboard
  • A movie projector icon for onboard TV/movie service


Here is a article showing a typical United Airlines Terminal used thru the mid-1990s when replaced by the GUI version of Apollo (FastAir):
http://www.vintagecomputing.com/index.php/archives/33/window-to-the-sky-the-incoterm-a103-06

Here is a sample United Airlines boarding pass (from a trip report of United's first 777 flight in 1995):
https://frequentlyflying.boardingarea.com/trip-report-united-airlines-inaugural-777-flight-den-ord-june-7-1995/

Image

Last, here is a training article about United's magnetic ticket readers that were common at hub stations beginning in the 1990s:
http://www.garybrandenburg.com/gatetraining

Image

Thanks in advance to anyone who can add to this,
Ryan
 
Dazed767
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Tue May 28, 2019 6:11 pm

Any luck? I wish they still personalized first flight certificates like that. :o
 
blacksoviet
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Tue May 28, 2019 7:40 pm

Does United still sell paper tickets through the mail?
 
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theAviationGeek
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Sat Jun 01, 2019 2:51 pm

blacksoviet wrote:
Does United still sell paper tickets through the mail?


I am honestly not certain if they still do. I found this article about United's 'goal' to be 100% E-Ticket by 2004.

https://money.cnn.com/2002/07/29/pf/saving/travel/united_etickets/

-Ryan
 
AlnessW
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Tue Jun 04, 2019 6:18 pm

Where did you find all of this!? So glad I stumbled upon your thread...

Ryan - you and I ought to talk more, as I am also of the "grew up flying United in the 1990s and 2000s but didn't keep very many boarding passes." Somewhere or other I have a collection of blue boarding pass stubs that the gate reader you link to above would return to you, kind of like a subway system. My other mystery was what differentiated blue boarding pass stock from gold? I wonder if anyone still has any...

Do you recall when those magnetic ticket/gate readers went in, and when they disappeared in favor of barcodes/scanners? Even after scanners became the norm, I remember UA left those gate readers in place for a little while... Not sure if this whole deal is different from the "Apollo workstation" you mention above?

You and I ought to lead a research team on UA nostalgia from this time period - here's a somewhat-related thread I started in the Hobby forum:
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1420835
 
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theAviationGeek
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Tue Jun 04, 2019 7:40 pm

AlnessW wrote:
My other mystery was what differentiated blue boarding pass stock from gold? I wonder if anyone still has any...


Howdy, I’ll work on trying to get a little more detail and answer some of your questions here soon.

However, I wanted to quickly answer this question for you. The blue boarding passes were for those passengers seated in economy. Whereas the gold boarding passes indicated a premium cabin. I have a few around somewhere that I can try and get scanned. I believe this began in the early 2000s, but hopefully someone can chime in with more detail.

Ryan
 
AlnessW
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Tue Jun 04, 2019 9:43 pm

theAviationGeek wrote:
However, I wanted to quickly answer this question for you. The blue boarding passes were for those passengers seated in economy. Whereas the gold boarding passes indicated a premium cabin. I have a few around somewhere that I can try and get scanned. I believe this began in the early 2000s, but hopefully someone can chime in with more detail.

Thank you so much, Ryan! I'll watch for another response or PM from you, at your convenience. That makes perfect sense on the boarding pass stock - and yes, early-2000s sounds about right to me. The stock (both colors) had the original UA logo and Tulip pre-printed on it. I wonder what happened to any remaining originals? Neat idea on UA's part to color-code them. It's too bad all people care about these days is a boarding pass loaded on their cell phone... :/
 
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theAviationGeek
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:03 am

I was able to speak with a former United Airlines CSR who stated that the magnetic ticket readers were already installed at their station in 1999. I had originally thought that these readers were confined to hubs; but, apparently they were installed at numerous stations across the system. The magnetic ticket readers remained in place until barcode scanners were fully integrated sometime around 2007-2008.

Does anyone else recall these scanners and when/where they were installed?

Also, I was able to find another example of a United E-Ticket circa April 2009. The links below come courtesy of Brett over at Cranky Flier who shared his experience of receiving paper documents using United's Ticket-by-Mail service:

Image

Image

Image

Image
 
AlnessW
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Sat Jul 13, 2019 3:09 am

theAviationGeek wrote:
I was able to speak with a former United Airlines CSR who stated that the magnetic ticket readers were already installed at their station in 1999. I had originally thought that these readers were confined to hubs; but, apparently they were installed at numerous stations across the system. The magnetic ticket readers remained in place until barcode scanners were fully integrated sometime around 2007-2008.

Does anyone else recall these scanners and when/where they were installed?

That timeframe sounds about right - we definitely had them in PDX and other non-hubs like OGG or LIH. I also recall it took a while for them to be fully removed - as in, scanners were installed and in full use while the old magnetic readers sat dormant and out of service.

I'd love to see some sort of gate agent training video that covers all of this stuff - pre-scanners, pre-e-tickets, etc.
 
strfyr51
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Sun Jul 14, 2019 7:12 am

theAviationGeek wrote:
I am wondering if anyone has any old United Airlines tickets, boarding passes, or itinerary documents from the late 1980's through the late 1990's.

I grew up flying United frequently during this period; however, it wasn't until 2002 that I began keeping all of my boarding passes. If I recall correctly, a typical United paper ticket would consist of an itinerary on blue ticket stock, followed by the paper flight coupons and receipt all on a grayish and blue magnetic strip ticket stock.

So far online, I have only found one example of a boarding pass from the inaugural United 777-200 flight in 1995 as well as a poster on eBay promoting United's new E-Ticket service circa 1995.

I am hoping there are some others out there who may have kept their old tickets and would be willing to share them here, or possibly offline if that's your preference.

Also, if anyone has any pictures or information regarding United's old airport computer equipment I would be interested to learn more about a typical Apollo workstation setup. I seem to recall their old ticket printers being quite large and noisy.

I appreciate any information on the subject a fRyan
guide?

Apollo and Unimatic ran on the same physical equipment I could access Apollo but couldn't do much with it as I didn't know but a few commands. They gave us pocket guides but unless you memorized the entire Guide? you were not going toi do much and Unimatic and Cosmo were hard enough to learn for Aircraft Maintenance Information and Parts information...
 
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theAviationGeek
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Sat Aug 17, 2019 10:31 pm

I apologize in my delay getting back to this thread. I have been using what free time I have had to research United's historical timeline, press releases, annual reports, Google's patent search engine, and using the Internet Archive to locate information on this subject. While I have made some progress in finding information on boarding passes and gate readers from the late 1990s though early 2000s, I have still been yet to find any additional examples of boarding passes, tickets, and itineraries from United from the late 1980s through the mid 1990s. If anyone new to this topic has any examples, I would be very interested in seeing them.


AlnessW wrote:
My other mystery was what differentiated blue boarding pass stock from gold?


In looking at United's timeline, it was on February 25, 1998 that United updated their logo and rebranded their various cabins: United First, United Business, and United Economy. From what I can gather, it was at this time that the ticket jackets were color coded gold, silver, and blue respectively.

The color-coded boarding passes didn't come until later. According to a United Press Release dated December 6, 2000, new "premium boarding passes" were being introduced to simplify the boarding process by making it easier to identify who was eligible for early boarding (this was before group numbers). Regardless of cabin, gold "premium" boarding passes would be issued to Premier and higher level Mileage Plus members as well as Star Alliance Gold and Silver members. Additionally, gold boarding passes would be issued to any passenger seated in United First, United Business, and United Economy Plus. I was somewhat surprised to read that United Economy Plus passengers would receive a gold boarding pass and would be curious to know if this held true.

Image


AlnessW wrote:
Do you recall when those magnetic ticket/gate readers went in, and when they disappeared in favor of barcodes/scanners? Even after scanners became the norm, I remember UA left those gate readers in place for a little while... Not sure if this whole deal is different from the "Apollo workstation" you mention above?


I am still trying to obtain more information on these gate readers. In speaking with a few contacts at United Airlines, the devices were manufactured by OMRON (specifically by their Social Business Division). I have reached out to them to see what more information I can glean. That being said, I was able to find some bits within press releases and annual reports.

The boarding pass readers at the gate operated in conjunction with the Apollo reservation system and FastAIR. FastAIR was essentially a graphical version of the reservation system that didn't require complex text entries; essentially, FastAIR was to Apollo what Windows was to DOS. FastAIR was first mentioned in United's 1996 Annual Report (Page 7): United began installing FastAIR, an electronic airport processing system that speeds up the ticketing, baggage, and check-in processes, reducing line waits.

The first mention I can find of the boarding pass readers is from a Aviation Daily article dated March 28, 1997. The article mentions that the gate readers, which had been previously scrapped, were to be reintroduced in effort to increase efficiency. Another Business Travel News article dated June 9, 1997 mentions that the readers will be deployed in Chicago starting in July of 1997.

The purpose of the boarding pass readers was briefly discussed in United’s 1997 Annual Report (Page 16): To help the boarding process move faster (up to 20 percent faster by our calculations), United began testing boarding pass readers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in July 1997. These devices provide an accurate record of passengers who have boarded the aircraft, they eliminate seat duplications, and they speed up the positive passenger bag-match and boarding process.

Further, United’s 1998 Annual Report (Page 17) mentioned that the gate readers had been installed at 40 stations. In United’s 1999 Annual Report (Page 20), they announced that the readers had been installed at 80% of their domestic stations. A Chicago Tribune article briefly mentions the gate readers and claims that boarding efficiency has been improved by about 15%.

And finally, in United’s 2000 Annual Report (Page 29), they announce that the installation of the readers had been completed on June 28 of that year. In all, 463 readers were installed at 87 domestic stations and 2 international stations.

As far as any mention of the devices by OMRON, I turned to their annual reports. The OMRON 1999 Annual Report (Page 12) introduces a new market with their boarding pass readers and includes one photo. In OMRON’s 2000 Annual Report (Page 11) there is again a photo of the device. In a Field Guide by Automotive Design & Production, OMRON’s Social Systems are outlined. The write-up claims that OMRON’s BPR101 device can process 560 passengers in 8 minutes. This is the only reference that I have yet to find which mentions a specific model number: BPR101.

A Google search of patents shows that OMRON holds numerous patents that pertain to airline operations dating back to the 1960s. Two patents that seem to represent these devices best are: US5151692A & US6695203B2.

As far as the operation of the OMRON boarding pass readers, I’ve learned that each gate area would typically have two computer terminals at the gate check-in desk. There would be a third terminal installed either close to the gate reader, or in some instances at the check-in desk. These configurations may have varied greatly depending on the specific setup of each station and gate. Regardless, the agent would a separate application on the terminal linked to the specific gate reader to assign the flight for processing.

While United announced to phase out paper tickets by January 2004, they still existed in smaller numbers while the magnetic boarding pass readers were in use. For these instances, during check-in, the boarding pass would be stapled back-to-back with the paper flight coupon. The agent at the boarding door would rip the boarding pass off at the perforation closest to the stapled edge. The agent would retain the paper ticket and feed the boarding pass through the boarding pass reader. The passenger would then collect their boarding pass stub which would be ejected at the opposite end of the machine.

From speaking to a few former United employees, the barcode scanners started to come online in 2007 or so (this may have been earlier). There was a period of time where the two types of readers overlapped. From what I understand, a great deal of effort had to go into programming the old magnetic ticket printers to be able to print a barcode on the boarding pass.

This is all of the information I have as of now. Again, if anyone has anything additional to add, please feel free to do so. Also, if anyone has any old boarding passes, paper tickets, or itineraries from United Airlines from 1988-1999, I’d be eager to see them.

-Ryan
 
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theAviationGeek
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Re: United Airlines Paper Tickets & Boarding Passes (1990s)

Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:36 am

Since my last post, I discovered one additional bit of interest.

It appears that at some point Rand McNally acquired a group called DocuSystems. DocuSystems' various lines of business in the 1980's were described in this write-up:

Rand McNally's DocuSystems unit specialized in supplying airline and ground transportation tickets and baggage tags, along with other technologically complex documents for automated systems. DocuSystems pioneered the application of magnetic stripes onto automated ticket and boarding passes (ATBS) for United Airlines. The unit also developed an electronic ticketing system for airlines that used bar codes to detect ticket fraud, which was costing the airlines industry $200 to $500 million a year internationally. By the end of the 1980s DocuSystems had completed a series of strategic acquisitions to enhance the development of advanced capabilities in magnetic striping and baggage tags.

I believe DocuSystems may have been United's first producer of Automated Ticket & Boarding pass (ATB) stock. Prior to this, carbon tickets were still the norm (whether printed or hand-written). In the 1990's, DocuSystems was sold off, and It is uncertain if the company continued production of ATB stock for United or other carriers.

As mentioned in my previous post, it was in 2000 that United introduced new premium boarding passes (blue vs gold). Those boarding passes were produced by Magnetic Ticket & Label Corp. in Dallas, TX. I am not certain if United had been using them prior to 2000, but it does seem to fit the timeline where styles and vendors changed.

If anyone has any additional insight, please feel free to contribute!

Ryan

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