A looming Air New Zealand worker strike would be a "real tragedy" for travellers trying to get home in the festive season, says Sir John Key.
The Air New Zealand board member told TVNZ1's Q+A it was important for the company and engineers to find a solution, otherwise thousands of flights would be cancelled.
The planned strike of nearly 1000 Air New Zealand engineers and logistics workers is planned for December 21.
"Christmas is the one time when a lot of New Zealand families get the one chance to reunite with other members of their families with friends to take some well-earned time out," Sir John said.
"For us as the national carrier to disrupt their Christmas holidays through arguably no fault of our own I think would be a real tragedy.
"It's incumbent on both sides to get around the table and try and find a solution."
The union says the planned strike is about more than just pay.
"No one wants to disrupt people's Christmas plans, but Air New Zealand has taken an unnecessarily aggressive approach," an E tū union spokesperson said. "Aviation workers don't make these decisions without good cause.
Sir Key said the workers were "well-paid Air New Zealanders" with "lots of benefits".
"They're going to mediation tomorrow and I really hope that we can get a resolution to this."