Air New Zealand has confirmed it is cutting back its services between Wellington and Australia, a move which is expected to deliver a blow to the capital's economy.
The airline would drop one return flight per week from Wellington to Sydney in January, and in February it would reduce its daily return flight to Melbourne from seven days a week to six, Air NZ spokesman Andrew Aitken said.
Flights to Brisbane are under review.
The news comes not long after Air NZ said it was cutting flights between Auckland and Masterton, and between Wellington and Wanganui.
The cuts were made because of "soft passenger demand" as flights from Australia into Wellington had on average five per cent fewer passengers than trans-Tasman flights into Auckland or Christchurch, Mr Aitken said.
However, the changes would not affect jobs, and the airline would restore the flights if the demand grew.
Mayoral candidate John Morrison said the news was a "body blow" to Wellington's already sluggish economy.
"How can we rebuild the Wellington economy when the national airline carrier doesn't have confidence in the nation's capital? What message does that send out to businesses, tourists and overseas students?"
The reductions would also compromise the airport's plans to extend its runway to secure more long-haul flights.
"We need to step up the pace, otherwise we're in danger of becoming a backwater. We're talking about extending the runway and here we are, our very own national carrier is reducing services," Mr Morrison said.
"It is another example of an Auckland vortex dragging everything it can from the rest of NZ and it seemed Air NZ wanted to intensify the Auckland and Christchurch hubs at Wellington's expense."
News of the cuts had been kept under wraps thanks to the approaching elections, which Mr Morrison said was "scandalous".