Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has re-hit his criticism of Air New Zealand, saying its looming price increases were a further "affront" to the provinces and the airline needed to "go back to basics".
Jones was previously strongly critical of Air NZ over its services for regional New Zealand after it closed flights to the Kapiti Coast earlier this year, going so far as to say some board members should go.
After news today that Air NZ would lift its prices by a further 5 per cent to help cover increased costs such as labour and fuel, Jones said he knew the company faced challenges, such as problems with its Dreamliners and fuel increases.
"It's a commercial decision, I accept that. They are facing a bunch of commercial pressures, but Air NZ should have no doubt my voice will not be stifled by these matters.
"They will justify their price increases but lots of people have already contacted me saying they are disappointed."
He took the chance to have another jab at Air New Zealand for its services to the regions, pointing to flight cancellations.
"I don't know how they can justify it. It's almost as if they need a permanent bus service now from Whangarei to Auckland or vice versa."
"They enjoy a virtual monopoly position in New Zealand and the people who feel Air NZ are doing a fantastic job obviously never fly to Whangarei."
He said he often now drove to Auckland rather than flying out of Kerikeri or Whangarei.
A spokeswoman for the airline said the company was no longer able to absorb the rising cost pressures in fuel, labour and goods and services. Fuel prices had increased by more than 50 per cent.
The 5 per cent increase would initially apply only to domestic fares but it is understood international fares will also be reviewed.