10 News and TIA help stranded travelers get home

10:28 AM, Jan 4, 2014   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - All they wanted to do was get home.

After 4 thousand miles of traveling from Frankfurt over a 48-hour period, the group of seven was looking forward to a warm bed. But, it's the last thing they got.

In fact, the familes and the University of North Florida German exchange students were far from home. They got stranded in Tampa, instead of making it back to Jacksonville.

With all the wicked weather, the group ended up being casualties of the massive storm wreaking havoc on flights all over the country, including Tampa Bay. At one point, the Florida-based group was also stranded in Newark. The real problem came, they say, when they got rerouted to Florida and United Airlines told them they wouldn't be able to get home until Tuesday. In addition, they were told they would not be given food or hotel vouchers.

"They told us to sleep in the airport. They didn't care," Tom Adair told 10 News. "I couldn't believe it. I spent all this money, and they didn't care about us. I mean, sleep at the airport? C'mon.  We were so frustrated, and they didn't do anything. They walked away and wouldn't even talk to us."

Tyler Nowakowski said, "We're tired, we're dirty, we're stinky. We just want to get home. United won't do anything. Are we supposed to live in the airport?"

That's when 10 News and Tampa International Airport stepped in to help. TIA wanted to do everything possible to help the stranded passengers. TIA Assistant Director of Operations Rupen Philloura got on the phone right away and began asking local businesses and rental car companies for help.  10 News, along with Philloura, spent hours on Friday night trying to come up with a solution. 

In the end, the group got a fantastic deal on a passenger van for $99 to drive back to Jacksonville from Dollar Rent-a-Car.  The company gave the group a free upgrade as well to a 12-passenger van.

The group was happy and grateful.

Nowakowski said, "Thank you 10 News and thank you Tampa Airport.  We are so happy to be going home."

Another passenger told us, "Thank you for all you've done.  The airport police and people here have been good to us. I don't understand why United wouldn't help. What is wrong with them?"

People in the group say they are writing a letter to United Airlines and do not plan to fly with the company again.

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