Air New Zealand is facing a backlash in Christchurch after announcing it was canning summer flights to Japan.
This will mean the airline will no longer have any long-haul services from Christchurch where the airport and local authorities say the flights to Tokyo were crucial for tourism and getting fresh produce to the lucrative Japanese market.
Some involved in the aviation sector in the southern city dub the national carrier "Air Auckland".
The airline says it is pulling out later this year to concentrate on its existing year round daily service from Tokyo's Narita Airport to Auckland.
That route will be operated by the airline's new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft from the end of August.
Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said it was disappointing to see profitable air services leave the South Island, especially when the island was the primary magnet for visitors from that market.
"This decision will have an undeniable impact on the economy of the South Island. The Japanese market... is growing at the moment, so the timing of this is a major blow for an industry that's still on a recovery path after the earthquakes."
The Canterbury Mayoral Forum - which includes 10 mayors and the chair of Environment Canterbury - is calling on the airline to retain the flights to protect millions of dollars of direct economic benefit to regional Canterbury.
Forum chair Dame Margaret Bazley said the decision was disappointing and did not take into account the special needs of regional economies such as Canterbury.
Air New Zealand knows that images from the South Island are the magnet that attract the Japanese tourist more than anything else. And yet they are essentially removing the last long-haul service into Christchurch, the international gateway to the South Island.
"People who fly direct to Christchurch tend to stay longer and spend more money than those who arrive elsewhere. The overseas tourists travel and spend widely throughout Canterbury - not just in the main centres - which provides significant regional economic benefits to areas such as the Mackenzie District, Kaikoura, and Oamaru."
Export dollars may well be lost - as well as tourist dollars and regional employment, she said.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said she was disappointed to learn from media that Air New Zealand was withdrawing the seasonal service.
"Air New Zealand knows that images from the South Island are the magnet that attract the Japanese tourist more than anything else. And yet they are essentially removing the last long-haul service into Christchurch, the international gateway to the South Island."
However, the airline said the impact of its decision would be small.
While we accept this decision is disappointing for Christchurch tourism stakeholders, the impact on the total number of seats the airline will operate into Christchurch is minimal.
"While we accept this decision is disappointing for Christchurch tourism stakeholders, the impact on the total number of seats the airline will operate into Christchurch is minimal," an airline spokeswoman said.
"We will continue to work with Christchurch stakeholders to ensure we provide connectivity to support the regional economic development strategy that will grow out of the next stage of the rebuild."
The airline said research done with consumers and trade in Japan indicated no clear preference to fly into Christchurch.
The cost of operating to Christchurch with 787 aircraft was also "significantly higher" than Auckland because of the extra distance and the cost involved in positioning the aircraft in Auckland to continue operating its scheduled services. This is because the 787 cannot operate to the Auckland domestic terminal which means the positioning flight cannot be operated as a scheduled domestic service.
The Narita-Auckland service will increase to 10 services a week during the northern winter.
All Tokyo flights are scheduled to arrive into Auckland in the morning to enable connections to South Island destinations.
Departing flights to Tokyo are also timed to enable same-day connections from Christchurch.
Air New Zealand stirred anger in some regions after it announced it would end services to Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport as its subsidiary Eagle Air is shut down.