PM Christopher Luxon forced to fly commercially to Australia after maintenance issue with Defence Force plane

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon's trip to Australia has hit a rocky start after being forced to fly commercially at the last minute. 

The Prime Minister was due to fly on the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Boeing 757 jet out of Wellington but a fault was found early on Tuesday morning.   

As a result, Luxon will fly on a commercial flight with Air New Zealand to Melbourne for his meetings with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders.  

The Prime Minister has had to fly via Auckland so will miss the first two meetings with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Junior and the Prime Minister of Laos Sonexay Siphandone.   

At this stage, the media contingent is stuck behind at the Rongotai Airbase in Wellington awaiting an update on whether and when they will make it on the trip.   

Newshub Senior Political Reporter Amelia Wade was due to be on the NZDF plane with the Prime Minister but is now stuck in limbo. 

She told AM on Tuesday morning word came through at about 6:15am that there was a maintenance fault with the jet.  

Wade told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green the Prime Minister never made it to the airbase, instead heading straight to Wellington Airport so he could make his commercial flight.  

"A bit of a disaster to start his Tuesday," Wade told AM.  

So far, there is no word about Luxon's reaction to the fault with the NZDF plane.  

"You can imagine he would be feeling some disappointment about this. He was heading over to a series of meetings in Melbourne because it's hosting an ASEAN summit," Wade said. 

"He was meant to have eight back-to-back meetings with all of the leaders from those countries as New Zealand looks sort of diversify away from China with trade and sort of improve those relationships, so he's actually going to miss the first two of those... but you can imagine he must be feeling quite disappointed and in fact, perhaps even a little red faced because this is pretty embarrassing for New Zealand." 

It's not the first time the NZDF plane has caused issues with mechanical problems before Luxon's first official international trip as Prime Minister in November last year.  

At the time, he asked for long-term options "for proper travel" amid ongoing issues with the NZDF jets.   

Luxon said that could include leasing aircraft to ensure New Zealand's leaders can easily make their way around the world without having to deal with the risk of breakdowns.