In direct comparison to US domestic travel, the typical business trip in Australia goes like this:
Get to the airport 45′ early, and within 10′ your bag is checked and you are through security. Rare identification checks, no security intimidation (replaced by profiling), and generally a smooth process. Flights are almost always on time, never overbooked, and generally the planes are clean and operated by happy staff. En route travelers are quiet, with minimal use of mobile phones, and no carry on baggage dramas. You land. Within 45′ you have your luggage and are in the central business district of whatever city. The majority of domestic planes are clean and usually have leather seats. No first class, all one service, like JetBlue but no cookie. This is a domestic travel utopia.
Look, it’s not quite perfect. I’ve been profiled/questioned prior to an international flight. And one time in 3 years I got stuck on a tarmac for 1 hour. And another time my flight was cancelled, due to computer system failures in the airline. And one week I got bilked on hotel rates due to a city-wide overbooking in Melbourne. Still, these are minor taxes to pay for a functional travel environment.
Back in America, every time I land in LAX, you reenter the third world travel purgatory, otherwise known as domestic US travel. For efficiency, you have the most complex web of connecting flights, designed to conserve fuel, maximize payload, and pump the margins for the greater good of lamenting shareholders. Granted, there are 15x the number of cities and people in comparison to Australia/New Zealand, and 5x the number of airlines competing for the same result.
The first half of the US travel problem is the traveler. There are too many travelers carrying 50 lbs of crap on the plane in shopping bags. Everyone pushes as if impatience results in activity. Road warriors operate with robotic precision and zero sensitivity. Truly miserable airline staff (particularly evident on United, American, US Air) should find a happier future as prison wardens.
The bigger problem is the airline industry concept of selling a mediocre product in a vain attempt to endlessly trim for margin improvement. How about clean the planes? Increase direct flights. Fix the baggage problem, making it worthwhile to check your bags. Throw obnoxious travelers off the plane (like the conductors on the Acela express train line). Hire people who love travel. Take some pride in the business. Staff your airports with decision-makers. Make airlines a luxury item (which it is), instead of a cattle-wagon on wings.