I just about cheered this morning at Minister Shane Jones' cutting rejoinder to Air New Zealand. Their Board had loftily told him to mind his own business and stop criticising their creeping withdrawal from regional New Zealand. In this interview Jones gave it back to them in spades - Jones 10, Luxton nil.
Since about 2014 Air NZ has withdrawn services from 6 regional centres - Whakatane, Kaitaia, Westport, Wanganui, Taupo and Kapiti - a quarter of its regional destinations abandoned in 4 years. Its not trivial.Its a huge inconvenience to thousands of regular travelers including me, and a serious setback to the regional development for which Shane Jones is responsible.
Unforgivably our "National Carrier" (time we stopped calling it that) has tried to block small airlines that have filled the gap.No interline agreements are available. That means no luggage transfer,nor Koru Club between flights. No through fares. Passengers transferring to or from a connecting regional service lose their money when either runs late.
And speaking of late running, my experience flying in and out of Tauranga and Rotorua in recent months has never been worse - reliability has gone out the window; getting to the destination at the right time or even the same day has become a lottery. And the fares are another story.
What Air NZ fails to factor in is that as well as being an independent public company it is a part of our country's essential transport infrastructure. Millions of Kiwis are dependent on it. That's like Telecom in the 2000s getting too big for its boots and holding NZ to ransom until the government finally ran out of patience - it said "enough's enough" and regulated Telecom in the national interest. Individuals who act in antisocial ways can expect the community, through the law,to react, and exactly the same goes for corporations. Watch out, Air NZ.
Air NZ should do the aeronautical equivalent of pulling its head in. Its an excellent airline at its best - I'm proud to fly on it internationally. But in the regions it has become awful. It owes Kiwis in the regions better than this.
Shane Jones should put Air NZ's regional services at the top of his watch list.