Many employees commute each day by bike, car, bus or train. Very few people commute by plane. I would argue that this can change by providing the right equipment:
One would need a plane. Perhaps around 50 seats (like a bus) but perhaps larger, since trains often carry far more people than aircraft. It would have to be very quiet to prevent complaints by residents since you'd want it to take off and land as close as possible to the passenger's final destination. It would need STOL capabilities and steep approach/departure paths since you should disturb the existing infrastructure as little as possible. Turnarounds would have to be fast, maybe in the range of 10 minutes between touchdown and take-off. Instead of the long final approaches found on current airliners, you'd want to make the approach as short as possible to avoid long detours. Give it a single pilot and perhaps some sort of backup but we can discuss that. Boarding and deboarding should happen through as many doors as possible, minimum front and rear. Hybrid and/or electric propulsion could be an option to reduce fuel burn and noise sufficiently.
No special service (perhaps a drinks & sandwiches machine or a single FA), no seat assignments, no checked luggage, no waiting for delayed passengers, no endless boarding procedure, no huge airports with shopping malls and fancy waiting areas, no complicated check-in procedures.
These new small airpots are integrated into the local public transport system, time between the bus/rail interchange and the plane is 15 min max. The plane stops, people get off, maybe refuel for a few minutes and look for stuff left behind, people get on, and off you go. Flight block time is 15 minutes to 1 hour. Longer trips could be multiple hops. Cost around $20 - $150 a trip or $300 - $600 a month for your daily commute (including transport to & from the airport).
Like a bus or train.
Many people commute. Actually, almost every employee does. The acceptable distance is determined by the time, not by the distance. Having a system like this could
- support rural areas and smaller cities,
- relieve pressure on land-based transportation, especially from points on one side of a metropolis to the other, traffic that would needlessly clog the inner cities,
- reduce the demand for housing in large towns,
- reduce the time wasted during the commute,
- reduce the time wasted at airports,
- give people more job opportunities, especially for families who may not want to move or where spouses work in different towns,
- improve connectivity between businesses,
- allow smaller companies and communities to benefit more from globalisation,
- replace heavy rail and HSR where the geography is not suitable (e. g. mountains, islands),
- provide fast and affordable links to larger airports & long-haul flights, allowing large airports to be built further away from dense population,
- utilise existing general aviation airfields and regional airports better,
- provide fast connections to city centres and their businesses (think of LCY).
All we need is a sufficiently capable plane, politics that make use of it (by building the airports and surrounding infrastructure), and acceptance by the people (which probably wouldn't come immediately since change tends to take some time).
Perhaps like this, or perhaps not. Though you probably would place your airport on the ground level and the rail underground:
Sure, there are many challenges. Legal, technical, and in society. But I believe they could be overcome if one was determined to accomplish it.