Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said he was "immensely disappointed" at the withdrawal of the Jetstar airline from regional routes. He has also warned national carrier Air New Zealand not to capitalise on the Australian budget airline’s decision by “gouging” regional air travellers.
"Air New Zealand has historically challenged anyone who creates a meaningful presence in the regions but it must not be tempted to ramp up gouging activity."
Air New Zealand is 51 per cent owned by the Crown, but the government is not able to direct the company when it comes to ticket pricing.
While Minister Jones recognises the government cannot interfere with operational matters, he said that does not mean “Air NZ gets a free pass”.
The Minister said at one level Jetstar's withdrawal was capitalism at work: “But as a retail politician I stand up for regional travellers and the pressures put on them."
Minister Jones said he would be keeping an eye on Air New Zealand's prices and "won't sit idly by" if the airline took advantage, he also added he will be talking to the company about this issue.
He said he does not need Finance Minister Robertson's [who is the Minister responsible for Air New Zealand] permission to talk to Air NZ – "if I want to talk to any corporate as the Provincial Champion, I'll be doing it 24/7."