Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones is warning he'll ramp up his criticism of Air New Zealand if the airline's announcement today of lower domestic fares is "only a gimmick".
Air New Zealand says it's shrinking its lowest fares on 41 domestic routes, meaning Kiwis will be able to fly within each island for as low as $39 and between the North Island and South Island for as low as $39.
The airline has been looking for ways to stimulate domestic demand since announcing a profit downgrade last month, and say prices are to fall by up to half on some entry level fares.
Mr Jones, a frequent critic of the national carrier, has told 1 NEWS he thinks Air New Zealand "realised the game was up" and that "you can't build a business by continually gouging the regions and paying lip service to them".
"I'm taking Air New Zealand's rhetoric and announcement as their gospel and I only hope that in the cobweb of detail there isn't something else lurking," The New Zealand First MP said.
"The reality is if you're running a business in the provinces you should be able to move around at an affordable level.
"I think the announcement will be good say for nana off the see the mokopunas. But we need to make sure it's for genuine travellers who rely on connectivity for all their economic viability," he said.
"I think if the cheap ones are at 12 o'clock in the day and everyone has to travel in the early morning or the evening then that'll be disingenuous. But at this stage I'm treating it as they don't want to mislead the public and they want to be not only profitable, they want to provide more affordable options for people in the regions."
Asked whether enough flights will be cheaper, Mr Jones said, "Well I guess it'll be driven by demand. I promise you one thing, if this is only a gimmick then my megaphone will go off mute and will be on full volume."
Last month, Air New Zealand announced it was expecting $340 million to $400 million in earnings, down from its earlier guidance of $425 million to $525 million.
This includes the financial impact of the global Rolls-Royce engine issues which continues to be challenging for the business, both commercially and operationally.