Air New Zealand is standing by its claim that it has decided to remove newspapers from lounges due to its "commitment to sustainability".
Air New Zealand posters displayed at airport lounges encourage visitors to tap into the free WiFi service and browse media via their phones. There was no explanation for the move for customers.
While the airline says the decision was being made as part of its sustainability push online users questioned the true motivation behind the decision to remove the papers.
One jokingly asked whether this would mean the company would cancel all flights in favour of Skype meetings.
Others also pointed out that Air New Zealand continues to distribute plastic cups on its flights as well as producing its in-flight magazine, Kia Ora, which it flies around in aircraft around the country.
The lounges have until now had some newspapers, including the Herald, on shelves for passengers to read. It also has magazines.
But this afternoon the general manager customer experience, Nikki Goodman, explained the decision was two-fold: changing reading habits where customers were turning to news sites online as well as an effort to minimise its environmental impact.
The airline, one of the biggest single transport polluters in the country, pumps about 3.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.
''We make no apology for putting our best foot forward to minimise our carbon footprint and we know there is more we can do and are working constructively with current suppliers to our business and some innovative global firms to allow us to do even better in the future,'' she said.
Removing papers as cargo flown to lounges would help cut carbon emissions.
Goodmann said the airline would also offer Airpoints members a special rate for a 12-month premium content Herald website subscription.
Like other carriers , Air New Zealand is under pressure from a growing global "no fly" movement and it promotes its green efforts, aiming to be the "least unsustainable" airline in the world by canning single-use plastics, using electricity to power planes on the ground and working with developers of hybrid planes.
As part of the push to reduce as much weight as possible from aircraft it had removed around 4.5 million paper napkins a year from domestic flights. It had removed Kia Ora magazine from international flights to reduce weight on the aircraft.
But Air NZ's move has people questioning whether the airline is making this move for sustainability or as part of a cost-cutting exercise.
Departing Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon this year announced wide-ranging efforts by the airline to reduce costs in response to tightening market conditions.
The airline has said previously they were aimed at primarily cutting head office overhead costs rather than customer-facing services.
Most lounges run by airlines still have newspapers aimed at older print readers who travel in premium cabins. Qantas said today it still offers newspapers in its Auckland lounge and Emirates has a range of international titles at its lounge at the city's airport.
NZME publishes the Herald and the company's chief operating officer, Matt Wilson, said he was disappointed at the decision to cut newspapers.
"We respect that Air New Zealand has the right to make decisions it sees fit. We do not however, understand how removing newspapers from the lounges is justified on a sustainability basis."
Newspapers were 100 per cent recyclable, with newsprint made in New Zealand largely from waste or byproduct fibre from sustainable softwood resources using geothermal steam.
"We are very proud of our efforts around sustainability for print," Wilson said.
Stuff newspapers are also cut from the lounge.
Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher said she was surprised to hear the airline was cancelling the newspapers for reasons of sustainability.
A publishing industry veteran and managing director of Lassoo Media, John Baker, said he was puzzled by Air NZ's use of sustainability to can newspapers.
"They have their own magazine. If they are going to apply to newspapers it should apply to their own magazine."
Baker said while newspapers were made of recycled paper, glossy paper for magazines such as Kia Ora was imported.
"It seems like a convenient way to justify reducing costs."
The move to ditch newspapers comes as Air New Zealand makes other changes to lounge entry. There have been complaints of overcrowding, especially at its Auckland domestic and international lounges, requiring some to be accommodated at the airport's own lounge.
It will be harder for some credit card holders to earn enough points for some free entry and the number of guests Elite flyers can bring in has been cut from five to three.