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Airlines Know Their Boarding Process Is Excruciatingly Inefficient. Here's Why They Won't Change It. One of the most frustrating parts of air travel isn't likely to get better anytime soon.

By Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • It took about 15 minutes to board a plane in the 1970s. Today, it typically takes 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Airlines are cashing in on the longer process with loyalty programs, which often count priority boarding among their perks.

Nowadays, it feels like every step at the airport takes longer, including boarding the plane.

In fact, it tends to be one of the more aggravating and arduous parts of air travel — but airlines have figured out how to monetize the process, and they're not eager to overhaul it anytime soon, CNBC reported.

Related: A 'Very Frustrating' Issue Could Thwart Your Summer Air Travel

It took about 15 minutes to board a plane in the 1970s; now, it takes 30 to 40 minutes to board roughly 140 passengers on a domestic flight, according to research by Boeing, The New York Times reported.

And airlines are cashing in on longer boarding times thanks to loyalty programs, which often allow passengers to board ahead of those without priority. The share of revenue generated by loyalty programs increased to 16% in 2021 from about 12% in 2019, Reuters reported.

Last year, Delta saw $5.7 billion in cash sales from American Express and other partners, and American Airlines raked in $4.5 billion in cash payments from its partners including Citi and Barclays, according to the outlet.

"The different boarding groups that we see today have emerged because people value their priority in boarding," Kerry Philipovitch, former senior vice president of customer service at American Airlines, told CNBC. "So airlines are using that to generate more revenue and reward their best customers."

Related: One Airline Wants to Know How Much You Weigh. Can You Opt Out.

Philipovitch admitted to the outlet that offering that "value" and "reward" could slow down the boarding process overall.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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