National MP James Meager campaigns to reduce flight cancellations in smaller centres

National MP James Meager says unreliability is becoming a "real issue" for Timaru as the city grapples with regular flight cancellations.

The Rangitata MP is campaigning to improve regional connectivity by pushing Air New Zealand to improve its cancellation rates in harder-to-reach places.

The move comes after Meager voiced his frustration at a flight cancellation on Wednesday.

"Christchurch Airport is not where I expected to be this morning, wearing yesterday's socks and applying a liberal amount of roll-on deodorant," Meager wrote.

"Unreliability is becoming a real issue for our region."

Meager said around 12 percent of flights in and out of Timaru (TIU) Airport are cancelled, while Air New Zealand told him it's come down to about nine percent. This is compared to the country's main cities where roughly two to three percent of flights are cancelled, Meager said.

Meager went on to write that he is fortunate that taxpayers bear the costs of his travel changes but noted others are not as fortunate.

"They all bear the direct cost of missing important meetings, funerals, weddings and birthdays, and have to deal with the stress of arranging childcare and sometimes adding entire days to their travel. 

He said people are abandoning TIU Airport altogether and driving over two hours to Christchurch.

"It's not good enough."

Appearing on AM on Wednesday, Meager said imagine getting up every day and one in 10 times your car doesn't work or the bus isn't there.

"That's what it's like for people who use this service regularly," he told co-host Lloyd Burr.

He said places like Timaru, Hokitika and Rotorua and all the other smaller, harder-to-access areas are the places that "get things done".

He's asking for people from these places to share their stories to so we can build a case for improving our regional connectivity.

Meager said he wants to make sure Air NZ is focused on it, which they told him they are.

Air New Zealand told Newshub cancellation rates in Timaru are higher than it would like but are improving. So far this year, the airline operator said it has cancelled 17 of 263 flights into and out of Timaru.

"A number of these flights were due to aircraft engineering requirements, several due to birds on the runway which causes a safety issue, and we’ve also cancelled flights due to fog," general manager domestic Iain Walker said.

"For some time now we've been talking about the challenges recruiting engineers. We've also been open about the global supply chain issues and difficulties securing aircraft parts which contribute to our engineering challenges."

Walker added the company is busy recruiting and training engineers, which will also become easier when engineers are included on the immigration green list from April 8. 

"We know how disappointing cancellations are for our customers and we want to thank them for their understanding as we work through these issues."

Meager said over the next couple of years he will be campaigning for commitment and certainty so that Timaru Airport can invest in its infrastructure and possibly make the airport suitable for ATRs aircrafts.