Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hey Minister, Save Trees!

Dear Union minister for Civil Aviation,

While traveling in India recently, I understood that I must have my domestic flight ticket printed on a paper to enter the airports.
Initially, I thought this was a security requirement so that bad elements cannot enter our beloved airports. However, I noticed that anybody can pass this step with a visitors ticket that can be bought only for INR 30. (0.75$ cents). Also, with my little knowledge of computers I can assure you that the required printout at the front gate of airports can be produced with-in 5 minutes. So if bad elements want to enter the airport, they will.

The only conclusion I could reach is, this is done to stop over-crowding airports and only let the passengers inside. I completely agree on this arrangement as I myself know, my entire family comes to drop me at airport every single time, and if allowed they would certainly drop me till the aircraft. (and would not leave till the aircraft is ready to go).

So, my problem with this is the "printout". The airport security were not even willing to look at my smart phone where they could actually read everything. They strictly demanded a printout. I tried to convince security at various Indian domestic airports but had no luck.

According to DGCA, we had 50 million domestic travelers in 2010, which means we cut approximately 8,500 trees to only pass the first step at the airports. (please find the calculation at the end of this letter).

I think there is a real possibility of saving trees. I believe we can fix this.

It would be unreasonable to assume that every traveler will have a smart phone to show the e-tickets at the airport. However, it is equally reasonable to assume that each traveler will have a simple phone*. Can we use the mobile revolution to save some trees? If the aviation ministry can regulate air fare prices, I am certain that, they can also dictate airlines to send a SMS for every booking. I am also attaching a possible format for the said SMS with this letter which contains all the information available in the e-tickets which I used to enter the airports.

The airlines do NOT need the print outs. For them, piece of identity and PNR is more than enough. If this information is enough to enter an aircraft and fly, then why can't this be enough to enter the airport.

Also, this 8,500 trees are the direct saving. There is another few thousand trees/CO2 saved which was spent in making paper from these trees, transportation of these paper and waste management afterwards etc etc.

This small measure will definitely make a big impact and moreover make the Ministry of Environment and the minister, your dear friend, Jairam Ramesh happy :)

I believe we have a real opportunity to lead the world by example!

Yours truly,
An average Indian citizen

* The travelers without phone can of course use print outs. There is no easy way around them.

Suggested SMS Format: (100 characters only)

Name: (40-char-name)

(if-needed the remaining 60 characters can be used for advertisements-VOILA)
DoT: Date of travel
PNR: Unique code used by airlines for a particular travel.
ToF: Time of Flight
FNo: Flight Number
ARL: Airline code
PoB: Port of Boarding code (Example: DEL)
PoA: Port of Arrival Code (Example: MUM)

Calculation for number of trees:

50 million passengers per year.
One A4 sheet weighs 10 grams.

So thats: 50,000,000 * 10 grams = 50,000,000 * 10 / 1,000, 000 tonnes = 500 tonnes
It takes 17** trees to make one tonnes paper so thats: 500 * 17 = 8,500

8500 Trees per year.

DGCA website:
Number of Trees per tonne: (Everywhere on internet it is almost the same figure)

1. Every traveler will have a A4 sized printout. Honestly, there is no other way. Few will even take more than one copies.
2. Visitor pass prices may vary across India, but they are not a lot. Maximum around Rs. 100 (2$)


  1. Good post. Actually send it to Mr. Patel.

    My guess is that there is probably no law/bye-law that bans you from entering with the PNR code on your phone. Only that the securitywallah needs to be educated that what you are doing is just fine.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Suddoo :)

    I do plan to send it to Mr. Patel. Though will try to get it better formally drafted before sending.

    Yeah I agree the security guys are at fault here.

    Also, I think such "false security" is more harmful as these guys are not actually protecting anybody from anything. At least they should stop wearing the "Indian Police" uniform.

  3. Totally agree. Printouts at airport is sheer waste of paper which needs to be curbed.

  4. Good observation and thoughtful article.

    Well, I completely agree on your point, except i have a small concern.

    Imagine, if your cell phone is been robbed the last moment or is dead(due to battery) then isn't it always better to have the eticket (printed) handy to enter the airport :-)

    So, to make life easy.....there shouldn't be any specific rule on the entry in the airport (for the travellers) i.e. they can enter through the PNR code on your mobile or through eticket(printed version) or Paper-ticket.

  5. @Red Lets do something about it then :)

    @Anon You have a point, and that's why I added this "*" in the post:

    "* The travelers without phone can of course use print outs. There is no easy way around them."

    In fact, I thought about this in more detail and the bigger possible problem is "Identity theft". Somebody steals your mobile and can travel on your name etc. (but they will need a photo id for that so.. )

    Also, if your mobile is stolen, I think there are many more important issues to be worried of.

    The main issue is that printout should not be a "necessity".

  6. Good thought! And seems like a quick win (easily implementable)

    There may be few constraints to iron out like forwarding a forged sms to another person's number (given that airlines disallow/charge to change traveller). However all that will boil to the identity check at the counter. So kind of takes care of itself.

    Also that forging is easily possible on a printed eticket as well! So it isnt a new problem.

    To cater to lost/dead cell phones, there are airline counters almost at all airports outside the departure gate that can print it out for you on need-basis if you have your PNR or sometimes even just with name. So definitely not a necessity.

    Thought provoking for sure..i remembered the Idea ad aired on TV sometime back :)

  7. Thanks a lot Shilpi for the detailed comment!

    So we both agree, the idea will take minimum work to get implemented.

    Was the same idea aired on the TV?

  8. Recently I travelled to India and had to catch a train as Flighs do no operate in the region and in my surprise TC (Ticket Checker) accepted the smartphone eticket issued by Indian Rail.

    I also confirmed with TC that is it you who accepted it or every TC, and to my surprise Indian Railways has rolled out an appeal/awareness to save 3,00,000 paper per day in printing e-ticket.

    Also, they have started accepting SMS as well in case if you do not have a smartphone.