10 News asks United Airlines why it didn't help stranded passengers at Tampa International Airport

12:36 AM, Jan 7, 2014   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - After 4,000 miles of traveling from Frankfurt over a 48-hour period, all they wanted to do was get home.

The "Jacksonville-7," which includes several families and University of North Florida German exchange students, was looking forward to a warm bed. But, it's the last thing they got.

They got stranded in Tampa instead of making it back to Jacksonville.

With the massive winter storm blanketing the country, the group ended up being casualties of mother nature.

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. Plus, they say the airline told them to "sleep on the floor of the airport."

"They wouldn't tell us anything. There was no customer service. 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. 

STORY: 10 News and TIA help stranded passengers get home

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.

But, the story was far from over. After 10 News got results, we wanted answers. Why didn't United help these people? Why didn't the airline offer food and lodging vouchers? Why didn't the airline do more?

We asked those questions and more to United, and after four phone calls and an email, we finally got a response from the airline.

"We would certainly welcome a conversation with them about the situation," United said, but did not say they would provide future travel vouchers when we pressed the issue.

A 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?"

10 News provided the Jacksonville-7 and all United passengers with a post-travel feedback number: 1-877-624-2660. Or, you can also email karen.may@united.com.

People in the group say they are planning on using that hotline number, writing a letter to United Airlines, and do not plan to fly with the company again.

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