COMMENT:

Lock and load your earplugs, Shane Jones has threatened to turn off the mute button on his megaphone.

He made this threat after Air NZ announced it was slashing prices on domestic airfares, especially those to the regions.

He welcomed the news, but issued the warning that if it proved to be all marketing tripe and no results he would turn his megaphone back on and use it.

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It was something of an empty threat given Jones had not even bothered to turn the mute button on to start with.

Air NZ has long been a whipping boy for Jones, who has berated it for all manner of things from its safety videos to its treatment of the regions, in particular having no flights at all or atrociously expensive flights.

He was unsurprisingly sceptical about the new flight rates and with some reason, as it turned out. He said if the cheap flights were only at times when few people needed or wanted to travel, it would be "disingenuous".

Oddly, he said it was no good if only nana wanting to visit the whanau benefited while those travelling for their daily business affairs were left paying the same or even higher fares by way of covering the cost for the cheapies.

Sure enough the headlines made better reading than the fine print.

Tauranga is one of those regional centres which is expensive to fly into, especially compared with, say, Hamilton - a similar distance from Wellington.

Unless you book flights 10 years in advance and on a red-eye flight it generally costs $200-$300 each way between Tauranga and Wellington.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The press release for Tauranga boasted about new fares starting from $49. Hallelujah!

Then a few paragraphs down came the news that on average, flights would be just $27 cheaper than at present. Not so hallelujah.

Jones was quite right to smell a rat, albeit a smallish one.

But you can bet Jones will claim the credit for the price drops.

Jones has an uncanny ability to launch his broadsides and then for the very thing he has called for to actually happen.

Air NZ has hardly helped diminish his ego by eventually granting his every wish, even if it is for reasons unrelated to Jones' criticisms.

In March last year he said Air NZ's board chair Tony Carter should step down after news the airline was scrapping flights to Kapiti Coast soon after Kaitaia flights were scrapped.

Lo, four months later Carter announced he would retire from September this year.

Then Jones slagged off the rap safety video. Lo, it was scrapped this summer. It was even replaced with his own favourite safety ad - the one set in Northland.

In May last year, he criticised Air NZ for a 5 per cent increase in its fares. Lo and behold, lower fares are now here.

This has not had the desired effect of stifling Jones. He marks it down as a win and looks for another reason to have a go to see how far his powers of persuasion will go.

Thus far, every win for Jones has also been a win for the public.

Even PM Jacinda Ardern has not been able to shut him up.

Jones is more than happy with the situation. He wants the headlines and votes and Air NZ has provided him with the first.

There is a slight whiff of hypocrisy about his approach.

Last December he defended his behaviour, saying the heads of such companies lived "a highly privileged lifestyle, so don't come the cry baby with me, they want to impose their views on the rest of us".

Of course, Jones himself would never try to impose his views on the rest of us.

When Air NZ's chief executive Christopher Luxon tried to have a crack back by suggesting it was unproductive for politicians and major companies to be at loggerheads, Jones himself came the cry baby and accused Luxon of interfering in politics.

"He needs to stay well clear of having any opinion about my role in politics," Jones fired back.

Next time round Luxon opted for the fighting fire with fire approach. He took a jab at Jones by way of a joke.

This came at Air NZ's annual event at Parliament when he said the airline was doing a remake of its infamous safety video in which the crew had only body paint on.

He suggested Jones take part. We can only hope Air NZ hands out those eye masks before pushing play.