Business delegates on the Prime Minister's trip to India gave officials a supportive round of applause after a trying day that saw the group stranded in Australia.

John Key will miss a third of his visit to India after the Air Force Boeing 757 carrying him and a large business delegation broke down.

Two take-off attempts were aborted. It means the whole Mumbai-portion of the trip will be abandoned.

That was the business-focused leg of the trip, including an innovation event to showcase Kiwi technology companies and their Indian partners.

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Most delegates remained in good humour during the lengthy delays and there was supportive applause after an official broke the bad news.

However, one said arriving late to India wasn't a good look especially as the trip was designed to improve relations between the countries.

Key said he was naturally disappointed, and particularly for the sizeable business delegation on board.

However, he didn't think it was necessary to rush the purchase of new planes, saying the 757s had been reliable during his eight years as Prime Minister.

"It is a little bit [sub-optimal, but] the options aren't great," he said.

Key had been due in Mumbai today, where engagements included the signing of an education agreement. His replacement plane will now fly via Jakarta, as previously scheduled, but then to New Delhi.

Tomorrow he will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to push the case for a free-trade deal.