A passenger left stranded in Rarotonga after a last-minute flight cancellation says more than half were left without accommodation, food or water for several hours afterwards.

The traveller says he was quick enough to change his booking to the next available flight, but many wouldn't be returning home until tomorrow.

The Herald reported yesterday how Kiwi dad Brenton Barker and daughter Georgina Wilson were two of about 120 passengers left stranded at Rarotonga airport after Jetstar cancelled their flight home about five minutes before its 1.30am departure on Saturday morning.

Barker said he had never been treated so poorly by an airline in 40 years of flying and said there was no explanation for the last-minute cancellation by Jetstar.

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"It's impacted a lot of people. It's very ordinary. It's just not acceptable for a professional carrier," Barker told the Herald.

"I think the worst part about it is the lack of communication.

"In 40 years of flying across the globe, never have I or my family been treated so poorly."

Jetstar responded and said the cancellation was due to staff sickness.

Another passenger has since come forward saying although he was quick enough to change his booking online, others weren't so fortunate.

"Many aren't flying back until Tuesday. Jetstar have not provided a new flight for 120 stranded passengers - they've instead absorbed them into spare seats on upcoming services.

"Whilst it is true that around 50 passengers were accommodated in hotels, 70 or so were not. We remained in a queue while the Air Rarotonga staff (Jetstar's local ground handling agent) quietly spoke to people, one on one. There was never any announcement as to what was happening."

By about 4am, one female passenger - "exasperated but very polite and without being rude - begged for some drinking water for her family and pointed out young children, elderly and a diabetic travelling companion asleep on the dirty concrete floor".

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"Rather than be offered drinking water (tap water is not potable in Rarotonga) she was instructed to calm down and the staff member disappeared. Several others echoed the call for drinking water."

The woman was then told that there were no hotels left.

Drinking water, along with some cookies, tea and coffee, was eventually provided by Air Rarotonga staff about 6am.

"These were provided by Air Rarotonga's check-in manager who also had to politely ask the sleeping 80 people to vacate his check-in areas. A photocopy of a standardised Jetstar email was handed out, stating that replacement accommodation had been provided (it hadn't).

"Air Rarotonga's staff were very kind, friendly people but useless with no idea how to manage such a situation."

The man managed to find a motel that let him shower and sleep for a few hours, and discovered it had spare rooms available.

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He was annoyed that ground staff didn't book all available accommodation.

"Not once did anyone say anything to the crowd as to what was going on."

In a statement to the Herald, Jetstar said: "All passengers have now been rebooked onto other flights back to Auckland and provided with accommodation where required or requested a refund.

"Again, we sincerely apologise for this crewing cancellation and any issues around accommodation availability at short notice."