How long do you think the USA air travel industry would stay viable if the Government on all levels stopped giving them mass infusions of taxpayer money?
Perhaps a better analog of Amtrak's service--the unprofitable long distance routes, at least--is the US DOT's Essential Air Service. It saw the smallest decline in flights of all airport types, five percent. The EAS was created in 1978, coincident with the deregulation of private airlines, and was "put into place to guarantee that small communities that were served by certificated air carriers before deregulation maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service."
This service costs over $200 million a year, with most of the ~150 affected airports only making a few 19-seat flights a day; you can bet it serves far, far fewer passengers than Amtrak's 5 million annual long-distance passengers, or its 15 million state-supported route passengers. (Amtrak requested $373 million in operating support this year, a number that has been declining rapidly in recent years as ridership has soared.)
I genuinely have nothing against the airline industry, and actually think their private, deregulated system is pretty effective. As a whole, the airline industry also serves many more passengers every year. I don't even really mind the EAS much, although there are some cases where it's clearly being abused. The point is that just as with our system of roads and highways, no travel mode comes without some amount of subsidy (nor should it--mobility is an invaluable public good). Despite this, only rail and transit are portrayed negatively for their dependence on public support.
This double standard is ridiculous, but especially so for the following reason. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars on roads every year and tens of billions on airports and security, and does anyone honestly think either driving or flying has gotten any better? Rail, transit, and bikes on the other hand, the most scorned forms of transportation in this country, and worst funded, are only becoming safer, more convenient, and more popular. I don't even know who the joke is on.
from http://www.betterinstitutions.com/2013/ ... s-get.html
IMO we can no longer afford to keep dumping money down the rat hole of passenger air travel. It is time to pull the plug, auction off the land the airports are sitting on and stop funding the air traffic control system. The airports would be purchased by either airlines or other entities and run at a profit servicing the airlines, routes that do not pay for themselves would be discontinued, and as passengers would have to pay the increased costs of directly funding both the ATC system and the airports the price of a ticket would reflect the actual cost of air travel.
Until the 1950's air travel was only for the wealthy because it was expensive. It is still expensive but now the USA taxpayer is footing the bulk of the costs of flying with subsidies of all sorts, from untaxed fuel to providing airports for the airlines to make money off of. For whatever reason, probably the Cold War, the USA governments at all levels decided airports were a 'common good' and they built or expanded them all over the place. Some of the ones used today are built on the remnants of USAF bases or Naval air stations built in the 1950's and closed not long after because we didn't need so many bases as they initially thought.
Without subsidies passenger air service would dwindle to a few high use routes, mostly between the 50 largest cities in the USA. I am OK with that, using an airline to travel from Detroit to Cleveland or Chicago can generate enough traffic to pay for themselves. If not then they will fall out of the network and people will have to use more efficient and cheaper methods to travel or telecommute.