13 strangers road trip after canceled Florida flight: TikTok

After a weary evening in the airport and disheartening news of a canceled flight, 13 strangers piled into a Hertz rental van in Florida.

Among them was a student trying to make her finals, three people on their way to and from Mexico, a mother in the midst of a custody battle, a public speaker and a college student-to-be.

It wasn’t the scene of a reality TV show — it’s a true story of a road trip that turned a travel hiccup into the adventure of a lifetime.

A canceled Frontier Airlines trip in Orlando, Florida, left dozens of people stranded on Sunday, Dec. 4, the group of travelers told CNN. Instead of waiting for the next flight to Tennessee in the morning, 13 of the strangers piled into a rental van and made the eight-hour drive overnight.

Alanah Story documented the strange turn of events on TikTok and introduced “the gang” in her video, which included Lexi, Robin, Q, Seth, Michelle (also known as video/7174560047748500779?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1″>@thefarmbabe), Adolf, Johan, Amy, Laura, Renee, Carlos and their daughter Mikayla.

“If I thought that this was crazy, I knew other people might think it’s crazy also,” Alanah told CNN Travel. “And so I just figured, this is a very unique bunch of people, we’re all very different. So I don’t know, maybe other people would want to see it, too, because things like this just don’t happen on the regular.”

Story was right — her video got over 3 million views as of Dec. 9.

“This sounds like a pretty good movie,” one person commented on Story’s video.

Three hours into the trip, Story posted another update with all her new friends — who tried to assign each other numbers to keep their stories in order for the viewers. Some travelers wanted snacks, others wanted sleep, others joked about how their fellow trip-mates could be Russian spies.

The group made it to Knoxville at 8:30 a.m Monday morning with an update from everyone in the team.

“I’m really grateful to all these guys right here because my baby girl had her heart set out to make this appointment for the University of Tennessee,” Carlos said in the video.

Miraculously, Carlos’ daughter made her tour — which started at 10 a.m. He credited it to the “community who got together” and assured the University of Tennessee they could expect this type of commitment from his daughter.

Mikayla’s tour appointment wasn’t the only happy ending in the van — Michelle Miller ended up making her speech and coincidentally, three other people in the van were heading there, too. Amy made it in time to help her friend close on a house and move to Mexico that night. Seth even made it to work on time (probably).

“I feel like this situation for me specifically kind of restored my trust and humanity a little bit,” Story told CNN Travel. “There’s definitely hope for people — people, they can be good. And also, if you get the opportunity to go on a crazy adventure, you should take it, because you never know what’s gonna come out of it.”

This story was originally published December 9, 2022 6:05 PM.

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Alison Cutler is a National Real Time Reporter for the Southeast at McClatchy. She graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and previously worked for The News Leader in Staunton, VA, a branch of USAToday.

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