KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Millions of travelers are taking to the skies and roads this holiday season. Most trips go off without a hitch, but some will inevitably hit speed bumps along the way. The latter was true for a group of strangers trying to make their way from Florida to Tennessee last weekend.
“They didn’t have enough crew to get us there. That’s why our flight was delayed,” said Alanah Story, who was traveling with her mom and godmother when they got stuck in Orlando on Sunday night. They were trying to get back to Knoxville, but Frontier ultimately canceled their flight. “They don’t fly every day, so I think our flight was canceled on Sunday night—and we wouldn’t have been able to leave until Tuesday.”
Without many options, Story and her family hopped into a rented van with 15 strangers—all headed to Tennessee. She admits that she had some reservations about the idea. “Are we really going to do this? And is this safe?” she remembers thinking.
But after more than 10 hours in the van, these strangers said they felt like family. Story thinks that’s why the TikTok videos she made—which documented parts of the trip—went viral. “Part of why people like this story so much is because you can literally see on paper we have nothing in common,” she said. “We don’t know each other.”
Story claimed that the videos also helped the group bond during the journey. “The TikTok experience is really what made it a fun trip,” she said. “The whole time, they’re refreshing it over and over again—’Oh, it has this many views! Now this many views, look at these comments!’ They were reading all of these comments out loud in real-time.”
The group finally pulled into Knoxville around 8:30 a.m. on Monday. In the days since, Story said her unexpected experience came with some unexpected realizations. “This, for me, really restored my faith in humanity,” Story said. “We’re total strangers and I didn’t know them, but I kind of put my trust in them a little bit and it didn’t backfire on me. … It was very restorative to see, like, people just be good to be good.”
For those getting ready to travel this holiday season, Story has some advice. “Go with the flow,” she said. “Things are going to happen, but if you search hard enough, you’re going to be able to find some positive outcome for things.”
Frontier, meanwhile, has issued an apology to passengers affected by last Sunday’s travel hiccups. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused by the flight cancellation,” a representative for the airline wrote in a statement shared with NEWS10’s sister station in Tennessee. “All customers had the option of waiting for the next available Frontier flight or receiving a full refund.”