Air New Zealand is under fire for its decision to scratch 16 flights a week in and out of Gisborne from December 1.

Eastland Group announced yesterday that fees to land aircraft at Gisborne Airport would increase by an average 106 per cent.

In response, Air NZ said flights would be cut and fares on remaining seats would jump by an average of $8 per return journey.

The fare rise and cuts coincide with the first day of summer - that means the impact would be felt straight away by people heading to the area for events, said Tourism Eastland commercial manager Darryl Monteith.


Domestic tourism would be the most affected and make a weekend in Gisborne a little less of an option, he said.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said Air NZ had a history of threatening to cut back services to the region with any hint of increased landing charges.

Back in 2002, when the council owned and operated the airport, Air NZ did not want a bar of even a small increase, he said.

"They threatened back then that they would cut services if GDC put up landing charges, which was about $3 per passenger, when the air tickets were $400 to $500 per return flight - so who are the greedy ones?"

East Coast MP Anne Tolley said it was "pretty rich" for Air NZ to be talking about the increased price of landing charges when Gisborne domestic flights were some of the most expensive in the country.

"Every year I write to them that there are not enough 'grab-a-seats' to Gisborne and that the fares are too high."

Mrs Tolley flew in to Gisborne from Wellington this morning and said the plane was full.

"The people I see using the flights are people trying to combat the isolation we have here, who have to go to Auckland and Wellington for business on a regular basis.

"The thought of getting an increase in price and losing flights at the same time is really frustrating - this is really going to affect us."

Mrs Tolley said what disappointed her the most was that as the local MP, Air NZ had not contacted her as they had in the past when they took bigger planes off the route.

She would now make contact with the company to get more information.

Frequent flyer and Labour list MP Moana Mackey uses the service at least twice a week.

"Any transport links in and out of Gisborne are far more important for us than any other part of the country because we are so isolated - you can't just jump in a car and be in Gisborne in an hour."

Ms Mackey hoped the company would reconsider its decision.

"Air NZ should sit down and talk with Eastland Group. We already pay hundreds of dollars for our flights in and out of here but we have always sucked it up because we appreciated our fares were expensive."

- The Gisborne Herald