New Zealand PM’s Mumbai leg of India visit cancelled

Mumbai: The Mumbai leg of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key’s India visit was today cancelled after a snag developed in the aircraft he was to travel in, officials said.

“Key was scheduled to land at Mumbai at 6.30 PM today. However, we received information that he will be flying directly to Delhi. He is expected to land in the national capital around 5 PM tomorrow,” a senior Maharashtra government official told PTI.

The development comes amid reports that a broken-down Royal Air New Zealand plane forced Key to spend the night in Townsville and ditch a planned trade mission in Mumbai.

The RNZAF 757 plane made two aborted attempts to take off this afternoon after refuelling at the Queensland airport.

The crew determined there was not a remote fix available and the RNZAF’s other 757 was to fly to Townsville tonight to pick up 81 passengers.

Key is leading a three-dozen-strong delegation with official events scheduled to kick off in Mumbai tomorrow. However, they will now fly to New Delhi via Jakarta instead.

Former New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum is among those on board, and the plane is also carrying the New Zealand Defence Force cricket team, which will play matches in India before the delegation heads back to the country on Thursday.

Incidentally, Key’s aircraft had suffered technical problems when he flew to Laos for the East Asia Summit last month, and in August made a safe emergency landing in New Zealand after suffering a suspected blown tyre.