Amid the scandals, resignations and email hackings of the past couple of weeks, John Key played one move that ought to have - in a normal, non-Whale Oiled news cycle - won the campaigning Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism some good press.

Key spoke to Air New Zealand about the high cost of regional airfares after the government-controlled carrier's profits rose for a third year in a row.

"I've made it clear that I think Air New Zealand needs to continue the work it's doing while making sure that it reduces prices to the regions if it can. Because in the end we always know they're likely to have a more monopoly-type position in those areas. And they've got to make sure that they continue to deliver fair pricing to the regions."

Good on him. This issue should be a relatively straightforward election barrow to push in the regions.


The high airfares hurt the regions and hurt domestic tourism. Think of the boomtimes Hawkes Bay tourism operators could chase if Aucklanders could get down there and back for a cheap(ish) weekend.

Instead, we can generally fly to Queenstown for considerably less.

No wonder the southern jewel remains top of the crown. And no wonder so many of us scoot over to Sydney or Melbourne for short breaks and long weekends.

It shouldn't be this hard for Kiwis to see the nooks and crannies of our own country.

But good on Air New Zealand, too. The national carrier's just released financial report showed annual profits have soared by 45 per cent to $262 million. At a time when plenty of national carriers around the world - including a large kangaroo-bedecked one just to the west of us - are experiencing tough times, it's great to have an airline that's doing so well.

At Saturday's TAANZ National Travel Industry Awards, Air New Zealand was a popular winner of the big airline award. Many in the Kiwi travel trade benefit when the koru soars.

But surely there's a smart play in this issue on which a populist politician (and we do have one or two of them those around) could campaign for votes in the smaller centres.