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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to

E-TICKETS For better or worse

Time is a precious commodity to most journalists. Unrealistic deadlines proceeded by long waits for a story to break or a jury to render a verdict. It's an emotional roller coaster. One minute it's hurry up and wait, the next its deadline-deadline-deadline. So knowing the latest shortcut is a must, especially when it comes to flying.

There's an ongoing debate between travel professionals and the airline industry over the use of electronic or e-tickets. The last thing you want to encounter when flying to cover a story or leaving on vacation is a long wait at the ticket counter.

E-tickets sounded like a great idea when they were introduced. You call or go on line, make your reservations, show a picture ID and off you go, no ticket to worry about. If you're prone to losing things or flying non-stop to your destination and the flights on-time an e-ticket won't pose any problems.

But, as most of you know, delays, cancellations, overbooking, bad weather, airline strikes and missed connections are the norm. Here are two entirely normal, yet different scenarios that confront most air travelers.

Scenario one, you're issued an e-ticket and your flight is cancelled. First, you and a couple hundred stranded passengers rush to the ticket counter of "Cancelled Airlines" to find another flight. Waiting in line could take a half-hour or more. When you reach the counter, the ticket agent for "Cancelled Airlines" checks the computer system for their next available flight. None is available, but the ticket agent tells you "On Time Airlines" has a flight that leaves in an hour. Unfortunately, "Cancelled Airlines" can't book you on that flight. "Cancelled Airlines" must issue you a paper ticket that you have to take over to "On Time Airlines." It's now been an hour or more since your flight was cancelled. Now you schlep your bags over to "On Time Airlines." At some major airports like Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport or Chicago's O'Hare, the journey, often a train ride, could take you 15 minutes. Then you stand in line at that counter. In the meantime, the flight you were told was available when you left "Cancelled Airlines" is now full and the search begins for another flight. Get the idea. You've now spent approximately two hours in line waiting because you didn't have a paper ticket.

Scenario two: While you were waiting in line to convert an e-ticket to a paper ticket, those carrying a paper ticket head to the nearest payphone. Armed with a paper ticket and the airline's 800-number Mr. or Ms. Paper Ticket calls the airline reservations desk and books another flight within minutes. They simply walk to "On Time Airlines" hand their ticket over, board the flight and arrive at their destination within an hour or so of their original flight.

The airlines are working hard to coordinate their computer systems to make e-tickets transferable, but until they do, paper tickets are your best bet. Be advised most airlines will charge you to print paper tickets.

Back in April, American Airlines started charging their customers $10 for this service. They were not the first and won't be the last. If you're a frequent flyer or circumstances arise beyond the airlines control most carriers will waive the fee. However, if you book through a travel agent, many will print your ticket automatically, if not ask.