Budget airline Jetstar has been accused of treating passengers like "dirty rags" after closing its check-in gates to at least eight ticket-holders on a flight from Auckland to Wellington.

"It defies belief, they treated the passengers like dirty rags - they wiped their hands of them," Auckland transport company executive John Cole said yesterday, after complaining to the Commerce Commission of Jetstar's refusal to let his wife and daughter board its 3.40pm flight to Wellington on Saturday.

Despite claims by the newcomer airline that it shut eight passengers out of the flight because they arrived at the check-in counter too late, Mr Cole insisted his family turned up more than a required 30 minutes before departure time.

He said he received a call from his wife at 3.11pm, saying the Qantas subsidiary was refusing to check her in, and then rushed to the terminal to see about 12 people arguing the toss with airline staff.

Staff called an airport security official and a policeman to clear the terminal after another would-be passenger, Auckland radio DJ Michael Earley, took photographs on his cellphone.

Mr Cole said Mr Earley was not acting obtrusively and the police officer helped to defuse the situation, but he criticised Jetstar for "non-existent" customer relations.

He also accused it of "blatantly lying" about the arrival times of his wife and the other passengers.

She and their daughter had to spend an extra $180 each for seats on rival airline Pacific Blue.

Mr Earley said his four-member group of entertainers missed a paid engagement in Wellington, so would seek lost earnings as well as ticket refunds.

He said they arrived about 3.05pm, and were behind passengers who were being checked in.

Jetstar spokeswoman Simone Pregellio acknowledged having issued incorrect information initially about how late the passengers arrived, but insisted they were all too late.

Although she told the Herald on Sunday they arrived 22 minutes late, and eight minutes before departure time, she said yesterday she had incorrectly transposed the figures.

That meant the passengers arrived eight minutes late, and 22 minutes before departure.

The Commerce Commission said it had received two complaints about people being refused aboard flights because they were late for check-in.