Flight MH130 from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to depart on Thursday at 2:15 p.m.
An Auckland woman, who was booked on the flight, said departure was initially delayed by half an hour. Then it was an hour, then three.
Eventually, staff told the waiting passengers the flight had been rescheduled to 3:00 a.m. on Friday.
Travellers were either booked into hotels or, if they lived locally, were given taxi vouchers to get home.
Malaysia Airlines staff took phone numbers and told the passengers they would be called with an update, whether the 3:00 a.m. flight was to go ahead or not.
The Auckland woman, who did not want to be named, said she never got a call.
She spent the night refreshing the Auckland Airport departures information webpage and returned to the airport at 1:45 a.m.
Again, the flight had been delayed.
The woman, who was travelling on to Mumbai, India from Kuala Lumpur for medical reasons, said the scene was "chaos".
"I see people with young children, nearly in tears.
"One boy who was travelling has missed his exams, that's a year of school he's lost.
"There was no one to take responsibility or to take charge of the situation."
She said had been through customs five times in the last 24 hours, with a NZ$75 bottle of whiskey she had bought in the duty free shops binned because she was asked to leave the boarding area.
Most of the passengers have now been booked onto a Qantas flight to Melbourne but they are unsure of how they will get to Kuala Lumpur once they land in Australia.
The woman said the passengers were never officially told the flight had been cancelled.
It was her second time travelling with Malaysia Airlines, but she would not be flying with them again.
"It's absolutely unprofessional behaviour," she said.
"There's a better way of talking and handling people."
Malaysia Airlines refused to comment when contacted.
An Auckland Airport spokesman said he understood technical difficulties had resulted in the cancellation.
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