Sloan, noting that JetBlue was forced to shut down service to places like Richmond, Virgina; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Portland, Maine, goes on to bring up this interesting point:
Consider this: since 1947, the first year for which the Air Transport Association has profit-and-loss figures, the U.S. airline industry has lost a cumulative $14 billion. And that's after including the up to $3 billion the association estimates that airlines made last year.
"Grocery stores give you better returns [than airlines]," says the Boyd Group's Michael Boyd, a Colorado-based airline expert. "Airlines are a crummy business, and will always be a crummy business." When people ask about starting an airline, Boyd told me, "first, we say no. Then, if they still want to do it, we say, 'Only if you're using your ex-wife's money'."
A final note: Amtrak runs trains from New York to Richmond, Raleigh and Portland. I should have asked JetBlue why it didn't put its passengers on trains, but even I—an Amtrak Select Plus customer, yet—never considered rail service as an option. The lesson: we think of government-owned Amtrak as money-losing socialism, but the money-losing airline industry as a bunch of noble capitalists. Maybe we should re-examine our national transportation policies the way JetBlue is rethinking its customer-service policies.
The nation's commercial airline industry is, like the nation's passenger rail network, federally subsidized. Both industries are net money losers. It's funny how we hear so much controversy about one form of transportation in regard to its economic health, but comparatively little controversy about the other.