By Duncan Garner, host of The AM Show.
OPINION: Stand-by folks, Air New Zealand is set to slash the cost of flying to the regions - the announcement will be made early this afternoon.
When I say slash, I mean it. The term 'game changer' has been used inside Air NZ. Fares will be slashed by half - $200 fares become $100, $100 fares become $50, $500 fares become $250.
My sources within Air NZ and Government have told me they expect more Kiwis than ever to fly as a result of today's move.
Make no mistake, I have been a harsh, unrelenting critic of Air New Zealand's approach in the regions - I thought they ripped us off, gouged us, used us as their own personal ATM machine to make eye-watering profits.
Were they successful? Yes on a global scale. Air NZ scooped all the big, fancy best airline in the whole wide universe awards, but screwed the little guy in the regions who was forced to take out a mortgage to fly to his cousin's funeral in Invercargill.
I felt they served themselves, served the wealthy and served the globe brilliantly - shame about the rest of us sheep at home paying the price.
But all that is changing. Air NZ is now operating in different times. This is a hands-on Government that, as late as last week, was meeting Air NZ representatives talking about what more they can do to make flying accessible and affordable to the regions. My sources tell me the Government and Air NZ are looking at supporting the smaller airlines as well, to get them into the towns that currently don't gave regular air services. That could be game-changing, too.
Could the Government use the Shane Jones provincial slush fund perhaps? It's all on the table.
Here's the last thing - the regions will finally be used in Air New Zealand's marketing overseas, that's exciting. Don't just come to NZ, see Nelson, taste Wairarapa, surf Northland, fish the Coromandel, climb Mount Taranaki, meet Mayor Tim in Invercargill... maybe not, but you get the picture.
Big, bold, brave stuff from Air NZ. Not just commerce, but putting New Zealanders first. Well done, why has it taken you so long?
Duncan Garner is the host of The AM Show.