Christopher Luxon praises 'high-calibre' business delegation on Japan trip after his 'C-list' dig

The Prime Minister's trade trip is back on track with his business delegation finally arriving in Japan 40 hours late, thanks to a plane malfunction.

But it isn't all smooth-sailing after comments emerged of him describing members of past prime ministerial delegations as 'C-listers.'

Christopher Luxon was on a Tokyo tour in the rain. 

He eyed up military gear he said New Zealand couldn't afford to obtain - like a replacement for his broken-down plane.

"No Government wants to be seen spending on itself," he said.

The broken-down plane meant Air New Zealand came to the rescue to bring Luxon's business delegation to Japan.

Luckily, its chief executive Greg Foran was among the highflyers stuck. He jumped on the in-flight trolley service as a thanks to the other passengers for enduring a two-hour diversion delay.

"We are in a place where we need to make sure that we can replace that 757," Luxon said.

More than 40 hours later they finally arrived.

"The plane has been fixed, it's on its way to Japan," said Defence Minister Judith Collins.

That meant Luxon could get his plans back on track with a visit to Costco to promote Kiwi businesses.

Luxon claimed he brought the gold-standard of Kiwi companies with him on the trip - telling Newstalk ZB in an interview delegations under the last Government were anything but.

"The few that we did do in the last six years compared to when I would go with [Sir John] Key on a few of them had just got very watered down. Just the C-list really, and I want the A-list being there," he was recorded saying.

Luxon was asked if that's insulting to those businesses.

"Oh, I disagree completely. If it was Jason I was talking to, as I said to him at the time if you play the full text of the interview, what I was meaning was this is a high-powered delegation," he responded.

Businesses on Dame Jacinda Ardern's trip to Japan included Fonterra, Zespri, ANZCO, GNS Science, and Christchurch Airport.

Those businesses are on this trip too.

Luxon was asked if he would call them C-list.

"That wasn't what I said, are you taking the comments out of context?" Luxon responded.

"What I said is it's very exciting that we've got a high-calibre delegation of chairs and CEOs of New Zealand's major companies."

Luxon is clearly convinced he's not in the doghouse for his rough talk.