Air New Zealand is "more than open" to the idea of working with regional airline carriers, says chief executive Christopher Luxon, who hit back at MP Shane Jones after criticism over its regional influence.
"I'd challenge you to go find me a company that invests more in regional New Zealand," Mr Luxon told TVNZ1's Q+A.
Earlier this year, Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones said he was "thoroughly unimpressed" with Air New Zealand's treatment of regional services, after they pulled out of the Kāpiti Coast and Kaitaia in recent years.
"I don't think Government and business having shots at each other is particularly helpful or constructive, particularly to potential investors wanting to invest in New Zealand," Mr Luxon said.
However, over the last six months Air New Zealand and the Government "actually found a constructive way of... working together on these issues".
Mr Luxon told host Corin Dann that while the airline has abandoned some routes, he was adamant that it did not show a lack of commitment to the regions.
"The reality is it's really challenging, we're in a small country, we have extreme weather environments, but we do a great job," he said.
Dann asked why Air New Zealand could not carry on certain regional routes that smaller airlines were able to.
"That's actually what we want," Mr Luxon said. "What we've tried to do is actually set up regional New Zealand to make sure that we are there for the long run."
He said partnering up with local airlines was "exactly the conversations that are going on".
"We've been talking with the CEOs of all of those airlines, thinking about how we can actually do that."
"It's about how would we do inter-liner baggage [transferring baggage to another airilne], and that requires just some IT systems, and those are the kinds of things we’re working on."
Air Chathams has started flying the Auckland to Paraparaumu route after Air NZ quit it earlier this year.