Government minister Shane Jones is courting fresh controversy by claiming Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon wants to be a National MP.
Jones noted that National MP Jonathan Coleman had announced his retirement, adding that people in the industry had told him that Luxon had ambitions to stand for National.
Asked if he was saying that Luxon would stand for the Northcote seat, Jones said: "That would be a step too far for me to say. I'm also told he could be interested in going to Fonterra.
"I don't really live, mate, in that champagne bowl that they exist in."
The dairy giant's chief executive Theo Spierings announced he was leaving the company yesterday.
Despite claims of hypocrisy, Jones confirmed he planned to attend the airline-sponsored dinner for Barack Obama tonight.
Asked what he would say if he had a chance to speak with Obama tonight, Jones said he would lament the fact that there didn't appear to be a Northlander with him on his trip.
"I would have said to Obama, 'It's a pity that a Northlander was not there to show you the history, the heritage, and to remind you that Americans were present when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed'.
"And, 'Don't for a moment think that you're not welcome in New Zealand'."
Jones has been embroiled in fiery exchanges over the national carrier's decisions to cut services to regional New Zealand, including Kapiti and Kaitaia.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave him a dressing down yesterday after Jones suggested that Luxon should butt out of politics and Air NZ chairman Tony Carter should be sacked.
Jones' attendance at the function tonight, which is co-sponsored by Air NZ, has prompted Opposition leader Simon Bridges to call Jones a hypocrite.
"One day, he's happy to slag them off. The next day, he's happy to take their steak and wine while listening to Obama.
"There's a word for that in Parliament that begins with 'h' that you're not allowed to use, but Shane Jones is a hypocrite."
Jones said Westpac had invited him to the dinner, and he was also a former chairman of the Parliamentary Friendship Group between New Zealand and North America.
"I'm not an inveigler. I don't have to worry about where I turn up as if I'm trying to suck up to anyone. The reality is that I'm going to enjoy my night. I'm dressed in blue, so I'll be at home with the corporate top table."
He was looking forward to seeing members of the Air NZ board.
"This is not personal. This is both politics and advocacy. I'm going to share with them that they do, in my view, enjoy a privileged position, possibly monopolistic."
He said he had asked government officials in the Transport Ministry and the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment for advice on how to improve regional connectivity.
He would also ask officials to talk to Air NZ representatives for their views.
"And I'm allowed to do that. I've got a writ to improve the visibility around issues pertaining to provincial New Zealand. Just because I'm rocking up to a swanky do, no one should think I'm going to park my opinions about provincial New Zealand in my back pocket."
Ardern was yesterday forced to pull Jones into line for going too far.
"Calling for the sacking of any board member is a step too far and I have told Shane Jones that," Ardern said.
The Government owns a 52 per cent share of Air NZ and has a say in the composition of the board, which is up for renewal in at the AGM in September.
But it does not have a say in how the board runs the airline's commercial operations.
Luxon has defended Air NZ's record in the regions, saying it delivered almost two million more domestic seats and reduced regional airfares 8 per cent over the last three or four years.