Rugby fans flying to last night's test in Wellington were among a group of Jetstar passengers left stranded in Auckland by the budget airline.
More than 10 people say they were left behind when the Qantas subsidiary closed its gates half an hour before the 3.40pm takeoff time for its final flight of the day to the capital.
"We got to the counter and were told we weren't able to board," said John Cole, who was travelling to the rugby with his wife and daughter.
Cole said conversations with Jetstar managers proved fruitless, so the family shelled out an extra $180 each for Pacific Blue tickets to ensure they made the match.
Another passenger, who didn't want to be named, said he was standing in line when staff closed the counter. He also booked a ticket with Pacific Blue.
"It wasn't even a 'look, sorry guys, [these are] the rules'. They just didn't care.
"They took too long to check everyone in. Next thing you know they announced that the next passenger would be the last. It wasn't just poor service, there was no service."
DJ Kris Hyman and his friends Michael Earley and Rhys Grosvenor were booked to play music and provide visuals at a gig for about 800 people in Wellington.
"We were in the line before boarding time," Grosvenor says. "They couldn't process everyone fast enough.
"They even called over the speakers the last boarding call after we'd been told we couldn't get on the plane."
The friends missed the gig because other flights were full with rugby fans and Earley plans to contact the Commerce Commission tomorrow.
Jetstar corporate communications manager Simone Pregellio said the first contact anyone had with the stranded passengers was eight minutes before the plane was to take off.
She said a service announcement was made saying the flight was due to close and no passengers made themselves known.
The manager did a "queue comb", asking if anyone in line was waiting for the Wellington flight.
"They did not identify anyone else. When they determined there was no one else they closed the flight," she said.
"A small group of passengers arrived 22 minutes late ... eight minutes before the flight was due to depart. It was far too late to allow people to board."
Cole said the response was "a blatant lie. My wife heard the announcement but was already standing in the queue.
"There was only one Jetstar flight. At 3.13pm I stepped up and started asking questions. At 3.30pm they put out a call that they were waiting for a passenger. Why would they have gone walking through crowds when everyone who was trying to get on the flight was standing in the line already?"
The other rugby fan said it was a bit of stretch to think "a dozen people turned up all at the same time.
"I certainly didn't see anyone walking through calling for us and how could a dozen people not notice."
According to the Jetstar website, the next flight from Auckland was the 6.20pm service to Christchurch.
But Pregellio was adamant staff made "every effort when the flight was closing to see if anyone else was there.We're in the business of carrying people and we want people to make every one of our flights."
Pregellio said check-in times and conditions were documented on the company's website and tickets. "We follow the same procedure before every flight. It is our policy to make announcements saying flights are about to close. We double check and comb the queue. We followed procedure."
* New airline beset by problems
Jestar's domestic service was launched with a huge publicity. But even before flights began on June 10, the airline was beset by problems.
- In February Jetstar offered almost 30,000 one way domestic flights for $1. The offer sold out in minutes and many were left frustrated after the airline's website was swamped.
- On launch day a ground equipment glitch in Wellington led to delays which snowballed for more than two hours. The airline said the equipment failure was exacerbated by staff learning new procedures.
- In the first six days of operation, Jetstar figures showed only 20 per cent of flights ran within 15 minutes of schedule. By the middle of this week this had improved to 61.5 per cent.
- This week the airline began notifying passengers of changes to flights ranging from five minutes to five hours due to a schedule rejig. Spokesman Simon Westaway said the original timetable was too tight and the changes would provide a buffer.