More than 100 passengers were forced to sleep on the floor of a gym or in the homes of strangers after their Jetstar flight out of Hamilton Island was cancelled.
Flight JQ 849 was on Monday due to depart the popular holiday destination for Sydney, however, “an engineering issue” meant the flight was cancelled and passengers were left without a place to stay.
With no accommodation available on the island, travellers were ferried across to Airlie Beach on the mainland where locals then came to the rescue.
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Tourism Whitsundays CEO Rick Hamilton said about 120 people were left stranded.
“Once we’d realised that we had 120 people there and they were finding it difficult for places to stay, the community got together, rallied around it and looked at opening up their homes,” he told 7NEWS.
“It was a combination effort with Cruise Whitsundays, PCYC, the councillors – Jan Clifford in particular who rang PCYC to open up for those people that couldn’t find any accommodation.
“There was a number of people who opened up their homes … so that was terrific to see.”
Community members rallied behind the stranded travellers, taking to social media chat groups to offer support.
One post alerting the Airlie community to the group of stuck holidaymakers and calling out for a spare room or bed was met with hundreds of responses as locals rushed to help.
Jetstar apologised and said it “deeply regrets” the extreme disruption.
“Due to an engineering issue, our flight from Hamilton Island was cancelled and bad weather meant we were unfortunately unable to operate a replacement flight last night,” a spokesperson said.
“Our teams worked hard to try secure accommodation in Airlie Beach, however, there were extremely limited accommodation options available on the Whitsundays Coast.
“As a result, a local community centre was used to provide accommodation for those who needed it.”
The airline said it would reimburse any accommodation, meals and transport costs incurred as a result of the cancellation and was working to get customers back to Sydney as soon as possible.
Hamilton Island said it was “dismayed” that passengers were left without alternative travel arrangements or accommodation.
“Due to school holidays across the country, Hamilton Island is at capacity and Jetstar’s passenger recovery team were unable to accommodate affected guests on the Island,” it said in a statement.
“As a result, in line with local requirements when there is no accommodation on the island, passengers were provided a ferry to Airlie Beach.
“The current operating environment for Australia’s airlines is incredibly difficult as they navigate staffing shortages, COVID-19 and extreme weather events,” it said and thanked the community for stepping in.