Kristina Keneally will visit a Tamil family locked on Christmas Island despite Peter Dutton blocking her from using a government plane for the trip.

The Labor senator has confirmed she will make her own way to visit the Biloela family, which has been in detention since 2019.

Ms Keneally was set to travel to the island on Monday as part of a parliamentary committee but said Defence Minister Peter Dutton blocked use of a special purpose aircraft for the trip.

Ms Keneally on Thursday said she was “relieved” to be able to make the visit this weekend after agreeing to alternative travel arrangements.

“I am travelling to Christmas Island on commercial flights, leaving tonight,” she said in a statement.

“I am glad I will be able to meet many members of the Christmas Island community during my visit, and of course, I especially look forward to meeting Nades, Priya and their two Australian-born little girls.”

The Labor senator on Wednesday accused Mr Dutton of cancelling her trip to Christmas Island, which she said was approved by the Australian Border Force (ABF).

She said the committee’s visit had been planned “for months”, and former defence minister Linda Reynolds had approved the plane for use given the lack of commercial flights to the region.

But Ms Keneally said just 22 minutes after the ABF signed off on the visits she received an email informing her Mr Dutton had determined the plane was not available for use.

“Within an hour of that information becoming public, Peter Dutton did the one thing he could as Defence Minister and cancelled the committee’s flight on a government special purpose aircraft,” she said.

But a government spokesperson denied the move was political, telling the ABC all special purpose planes were in use.

“It is fundamentally wrong to suggest this was done to stop Kristina Keneally’s visit,” they said.

“She has been approved to visit the centre and could fly commercially.”

The Biloela family – made up of parents Nades, Priya and two Australian-born daughters – have been in detention since 2019 when a court injunction prevented them from being deported to Sri Lanka.

The government has rejected a clamour from the local community, where the family is highly popular, to keep them onshore.

Ms Keneally said Prime Minister Scott Morrison was allowing the “cruel and inhumane” saga to continue at a $50m cost to the taxpayer.

Source