Prime Minister John Key is finally on the way to India after suffering embarrassing plane troubles during a stopover in Australia.

Key and a New Zealand delegation were forced to spend last night in Townsville, North Queensland after the Air Force Boeing 757 transporting him and about 80 other passengers broke down during a refuelling stop on the long trip to India.

The Prime Minister had been due to land in Mumbai about 2am today, New Zealand time.

Instead, a replacement plane was sent from New Zealand. The aircraft left Townsville at 11am and is now en route to New Delhi, via Jakarta. The Mumbai leg of Key's programme has been scrapped.


After a long day's travel and delay yesterday, Key and other members of the delegation were relaxing at the Brewery Bar in central Townsville when he was spotted by a local journalist.

As a result a smiling photo of the Prime Minister is on the front page of today's Townsville Bulletin.

"India's loss is our gain as NZ PM backs direct flights," the headline reads, explaining that Key has backed the push for direct flights between Townsville and New Zealand.

Speaking yesterday, Key described being stranded in Australia as "sub-optimal".

"Naturally we are a little bit disappointed, particularly for the business delegation, but hopefully we can carry on with the main purpose of the trip," Key told reporters.

Asked if it was time to get a new plane for such trips, Key said the 757s had been very reliable in his eight years as PM.

"It is a little bit sub-optimal, but we are in Townsville and the options aren't great from this perspective - there are no international alternatives we could take, so you just have to roll with the punches."

He did not know what exactly had gone wrong with the plane, and said he was at no time concerned for his own safety during the aborted take-off.

The 35-strong business delegation includes former Black Cap captain Brendon McCullum. The New Zealand Air Force has two Boeing 757s in service which, together with a modification project, cost $221 million.

Key will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tomorrow, and start the trek home on Thursday night, arriving back in New Zealand on Friday.