Sir Noel Robinson says Air New Zealand's move to scrap its Kapiti to Auckland service is a "shocking decision".
Sir Noel, the former owner of Kapiti Coast Airport, was the key person in helping attract the national airline to the Paraparaumu based airport in 2011.
He oversaw a massive transformation of the airport and spent $15 million setting it up for the national airline.
On Friday, the airline took many by surprise when it announced the service would be suspended after April 3.
The announcement came less than a week after a successful open day at the airport, aimed at supporting the service, which attracted more than 1000 people.
The airline said it had to make domestic schedule adjustments to match its seat capacity to areas with growing customer demand.
Sir Noel said: "Air NZ have always said to me that if they're over 60 per cent loading they're happy — and last year it has been well over 80 per cent".
The decision was "quite sickening and I really feel upset for the community".
"I think the community has been let down badly."
Sir Noel said Air NZ had been given "very, very special treatment as far as landing fees go ... when I was there we gave them a very special rate, better than any other airport in New Zealand".
Kapiti mayor K Gurunathan said it was "appalling" the national carrier would treat a community in this manner.
He said he was given 24-hours notice that Air NZ was pulling the service.
"I would have expected four months notice or more that this was going to happen."
The council was working with the local airport company to attract new air services to the district.
"There have been a number of changes in New Zealand's aviation market since Air NZ established its service out of Kapiti and the growth in our tourism will be a real attraction to other players with more flexibility to extend their services.
"Kapiti's growth is a rising tide and we've got multi-million dollar investments in infrastructure.
"We don't depend on Air NZ for our economic development and we will have other players coming in."
He noted Air NZ had some challenges delivering a reliable service within the constraints of its national schedule.
"This clearly had an impact on customers' confidence in, and use of the service, particularly business travellers".
Evan Davies, managing director of airport owners Todd Property Group, said the announcement was being carefully considered in terms of what it meant for the airport including consideration of alternative airlines interested in operating the route.
Kapiti Coast Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Heather Hutchings said the chamber and others had been working hard since last year to build demand for the flights and create an enduring service.
"This hasn't always been easy in the face of ongoing cancellations and delays ... we will now look to build Kapiti's reputation as a tourism destination, to boost the local economy and support local businesses."
Liz Koh, chairwoman of the recently formed Kapiti Economic Development Agency, said the decision was short-sighted as the district was on the cusp of significant growth.
But she questioned "whether we have played our part well enough".
"For too long, Kapiti has underspent on economic development.
"Air NZ gave us a golden opportunity to promote our district and attract visitors and new businesses to the area but we have done little to take advantage of that opportunity and we are now suffering the consequences."