New Zealand First MP Shane Jones has lashed out at Jetstar for "selling the trans-Tasman relationship short" after the Australian airline announced it was ending its regional flight operations in Aotearoa.
He also fired an aggressive warning shot at national carrier Air New Zealand.
The outspoken Regional Economic Development Minister spoke about Jetstar's announcement with Magic Talk's Ryan Bridge on Monday afternoon and did not hold back.
"I'm disappointed that the Aussie companies are not only trying to nick our manuka honey, but now they've turned their backs on providing a comprehensive service out into the regions," Jones said.
"They should continue to support New Zealand if they want to capture the air dollar, whether or not they're making a loss or a profit. At the end of the day, they've got to spread those costs over the entirety of the market. This is a huge Australasian market."
Jones saved his strongest words for Air NZ, which has promised not to raise the cost of their regional airfares - dependant on fuel prices remaining steady.
"I'm sharpening my dagger if Air NZ does decide to gouge the kindred souls out there in the provinces - that will not go unchallenged," he said.
"We expect the national carrier to look after regional New Zealand.
"The reality is they have privileges all over the world because they bear the moniker of our nation and its only right that Air NZ should consider its obligations to New Zealand."
Jones said he will hold fire on his scrutiny of Air NZ until departing CEO Christopher Luxon's replacement is announced.
"Let's wait and see what's the colour of the eyes of the new CEO," he said.
"These corporate leaders, they kind of get swept away with their own projects of vanity, but when accountability arises they're nowhere to be seen."
Jones said he had taken the idea of an air connectivity fund to cabinet, but was unable to convince his colleagues to take it on.
"It would have been a bit of a challenge to subsidise the Australians at the same time they try to nick our manuka."
Jones said his door is open to smaller operators such as Air Chathams, who have recently taken on additional regional services, to look at ways to assist their expansion.
Air Chathams told Newshub they have no comment to make about the announcement.