Air New Zealand's decision to cease flying to Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport from April next year was "inevitable", says an aviation expert.
"[The route cuts] were just waiting to happen. I think in regional New Zealand it's very hard to operate into, it's very expensive and the upscaling now to the larger aircraft will benefit," the expert, Peter Clark, says.
Air NZ says there is not enough customer demand for the routes, and it is also putting a stop, in April, to flights between: Whangarei - Wellington; Taupo - Wellington; Palmerston North - Nelson. Hamilton - Auckland will also stop from February 2016.
Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis told ONE News that Air New Zealand's plans to pull out of Kaitaia is devastating news for the town and the region.
"It's an absolute kick in the guts for Kaitaia and the whole of Northland, to be honest. " Mr Davis said.
The move comes as Air NZ changes all regional flying to either 50 or 68 seat aircraft, removing the currently operating 19 seat planes completely.
In a statement today CEO Christopher Luxon says despite the changes, "Air New Zealand remains resolutely committed to regional New Zealand".
In August, Air NZ was heavily criticised for the cost of its regional airfares after posting a profit for the third year in a row - $262 million in the year to June 30.
Prime Minister John Key raised the issue of regional prices directly with Mr Luxon at the time.
However, Air NZ says its 19 seat planes are the smallest in their fleet, and have the highest cost per seat to operate because fixed costs are spread across fewer passengers.
"For more than two years Air New Zealand's fleet of 19 seat aircraft has been losing more than $1 million a month," says Mr Luxon.
On the routes that will move from 19 seat planes to 50 seat planes, Mr Luxon says Air NZ "expects to deliver a 15% average fare reduction".
"This is good news for the following 12 towns: Kerikeri, Whangarei, Tauranga, Hamilton, Rotorua, Gisborne, Taupo, Wanganui, Palmerston North, Blenheim, Hokitika and Timaru. Each will progressively move to 50 seat aircraft and benefit from fare reductions."
Starting February next year, the airline is introducing a new "Gotta Go" fare for regional flights, similar to Grabaseat. Tickets will be available to buy 90 minutes before departure, and will be fixed at $169 one-way or $249 return.
From November this year, short notice tickets at the same prices will be available for people "dealing with a bereavement or unexpected critical medical situation".