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SOUTHWEST AIRLINES WILL TEST TICKETLESS SYSTEM THIS MONTH

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Southwest Airlines said Wednesday it will begin testing this month a system in which passengers do not have to have a paper ticket.

Morris Air, which Dallas-based Southwest acquired in December, has its own "ticketless" system, but Southwest Chairman Herb Kelleher said his airline will not use the Morris system. Instead, it will use one designed specifically for Southwest."While we have learned a great deal from Morris Air about its ticketless system, we are not using the Morris system because it does not meet Southwest's operating requirements," said Kelleher.

In his announcement, Kelleher did not describe how the Southwest system would work, but it is likely that passengers would be assigned a computerized reservation number in lieu of a ticket.

In May, Southwest was taken off three computerized reservation systems used by travel agents when it refused to pay booking fees. Kelleher said the action hasn't impacted its revenues but it has since been looking for other ways to sell seats. Ticketless fares are one of those options it is exploring.

The systems from which Southwest was removed were System One, owned by Continental Airlines, and Apollo, owned by United Airlines and USAir.

Worldspan, another reservation system, also changed its listing method so it was less convenient for travel agents to see information about Southwest flights and fares.

Southwest pays to be listed by the largest computerized reservation system, American Airlines' Sabre.

Southwest will begin testing the no-ticket system Aug. 22 on flights between Dallas, Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas, and Little Rock, Ark. Depending on the results of the four-city test, the company will then decided whether to test no-ticket systemwide.

"At this point, we are committed to only testing the ticketless system," said Kelleher. But if it works, he said, an official rollout of the ticketless system "will soon follow." The company indicated that full-scale testing could come in September.

He said the first phase of the test will be offered primarily to the airline's "Company Club" frequent flyers as well as a "select group" of corporate travelers. Travel agencies in the four test cities may also participate.

He said he believes a ticketless system will enable travel agencies to more conveniently sell seats on Southwest flights.

If it works, Kelleher said a ticketless system would "reduce any perceived dependency on the computer reservations systems owned by our competitors."