Air NZ ticks off government after Shane Jones' outburst

Air NZ chairman Tony Carter is unhappy with Shane Jones' comments.

Air New Zealand has ticked off the government, warning ministers need to be kept in line.

Air NZ chairman Tony Carter wrote to Finance and  Air NZ shareholding Minister Grant Robertson today, to reinforce the airline will always act independently of the Crown.

Mr Carter says the Crown’s shareholding in the publicly-listed airline gives it equal rights to all other ordinary shareholders.

He drew attention to recent examples where Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones publicly criticised Air NZ for operational decisions over regional air services while referencing the Crown’s 52% shareholding.

“Any appearance of a lack of commercial independence is viewed seriously by the Air NZ board and is, ultimately, potentially damaging to the interests of all shareholders, including the Crown,” Mr Carter says.

Last week, NZ First MP Mr Jones, who is from the Far North, warned Air NZ to stop shutting down regional air links.

After an announcement last Friday that the government would contribute $1.75 million toward the $4.75m cost of building a new terminal at Bay of Islands Airport near Kerikeri, Mr Jones reportedly told Air NZ's regional affairs manager Ian Collier: ''Don't keep closing down regional air links. And take that message to your supervisors.''

Mr Jones said he was speaking as a champion for the regions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the government has no plans to interfere with Air New Zealand’s operations. She acknowledged Mr Jones was expressing an opinion as a regional minister.

Air NZ axed its twice-daily flights to Kaitaia and several other regional centres in 2015. However, it increased aircraft size and flights to Kerikeri.

Services dialled back
Earlier this month the airline announced it was also ending its daily flights between Kapiti Coast and Auckland from April.

The airline said it was “making domestic schedule adjustments to better match its aircraft seat capacity to areas of growing customer demand and is committed to continuing to grow the wider regional network.”

Air Chathams has expressed an interest in picking up the route.

Air NZ’s pre-tax earnings for the six months to December 31 were down 7.4% to $323 million, compared to $349 million in the previous period that included a $22 million gain related to the divestment of Virgin Australia.

Net profit after taxation was $232 million, down 9.4% from $256 million, while cashflow from operations increased 27% to $479 million.

Operating revenue was up 5.6% to $2.7 billion, with strong growth in the short-haul network.

Passenger revenue was $2.3 billion, its highest ever for a half-year, with 8.5 million passengers carried during the period. Capacity increased 3.4%.

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