TBT: Airline City Ticket Offices!


As I have spent quite a bit of 2021 in Mexico and Latin America, I have come across something that has mostly disappeared everywhere else!

Don’t you remember when most airlines used to have standalone City Ticket Offices (CTOs) in the business districts in most major cities that dealt with ticketing and other related issues (remember those vouchers and paper tickets!).

Here are my few fond memories of them:

American Airlines Sao Paulo CTO at Renaissance Hotel

I used to stay at this hotel a lot and still occasionally do (they need another room/suite refresh soon). It was highly convenient to just go to the basement, where AA’s CTO was located, to issue domestic award tickets on GOL.

United Airlines Rio de Janeiro CTO

The location of the CTO is unclear to me now, but it was somewhere in the Centro. I had trouble getting the then infamous NZ Los Angeles – Los Angeles flight ticketed using miles because United had a “block” in space.

The agent did a manual sell in I-class that, in a second or two, came back as HK (confirmed), and the ticket was issued.

American Airlines Bangkok CTO

I love using my AAdvantage miles for those around the world business class awards that cost 230K if my memory is correct.

Back then, these were paper tickets, and I visited the AA Bangkok CTO to pay the taxes and collect the 16-segments “booklet.”

Singapore Airlines Auckland CTO

Alitalia used to file exceptional business class fares from Colombo to New York that allowed rather exotic routings (CMB-SIN-AKL-RAR-HKG-BUD-FCO-JFK) with stopovers.

All went well until I had a night out with my Estonian friends who happened to be in the city on the K-road and missed my morning NZ flight to Raratonga.

I paid a visit to Singapore Airlines, whose ticket stock this AZ fare was issued, assuming that they would refuse to touch it because of the price. Instead, I was surprised that they just rebooked the NZ segment and attached a sticker (remember those?) with a stamp to the paper ticket.

United Airlines CTOs in Bangkok

As I was 1K, I visited their Bangkok office quite often that changed locations a couple of times. They had 20+ locals working there issuing and working on tickets to/from Thailand or award tickets that needed you to sign an authorization if it was for a third party (remember that?).

United used to offer very attractive fares with Emirates of all the airlines ex-Bangkok that allowed excellent worldwide trips in business.


CTOs were and likely still are, where they exist, good places to sort out ticketing issues because they tend to have agents who know how to use GDS systems and have more knowledge about ticketing issues than “systems says this” that is the usual response from an inexperienced phone agent.

As paper tickets became incredibly rate, the biggest reason these CTOs went away (changes had to be stickered), there was no need for those “booklets” anymore.

I still miss them, though.

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