National News

Power Outage at Atlanta Airport Snarls Operations

Posted December 17, 2017 7:21 p.m. EST

A power failure at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday disrupted operations at the major transportation hub, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and leaving travelers stranded on planes waiting to reach their gates.

What caused the failure around 1 p.m. Eastern time was not immediately clear, nor was there an estimate for when power might be restored.

On Twitter, the airport cautioned against social media reports that a construction crew had cut a power line.

“This is NOT confirmed,” the airport said. “We are working with @GeorgiaPower to identify and fix ASAP.”

The power failure caused a ripple of disruptions as the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that it had put “a ground stop” for flights headed to the airport. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said on Twitter that incoming international flights were diverted to other airports.

Delta Air Lines said on its website that more than 450 of its flights were canceled.

The FAA said its tower had electricity and was operating normally.

“However, departures are delayed because airport equipment in the terminals is not working,” its statement said. “A ground stop means that flights headed to Atlanta are held on the ground at their departure airport.”

The airport is the busiest in the world for passenger traffic, serving more than 104 million passengers last year, according to Airports Council International.

As the day dragged on, travelers vented on social media about being stranded, the need to make alternate plans and what they complained was a lack of timely information.

“In the dark,” Gant Laborde wrote on Twitter. “@ATLairport without primary power, and staff has no idea why. Computers, intercom, and facilities are down while confused flyers wait.

“Trying to fly to home for Christmas but the power went out at ATL airport so we’re stuck in Houston,” Christine Choe wrote on Twitter.

Outside of Atlanta, passengers reported delays affecting other airports across the country.

William Kimble, 37, was at the Atlanta airport for a layover en route to San Antonio when the power went out. He spent hours in an airport lounge, struggling at times to use the internet with an increasingly spotty data connection.

Despite the lack of information, he said in an interview on Twitter, “passengers here are calm,” adding, “One would assume the folks stuck out on planes are not as happy.”

Alex Ford, 25, got stranded on the tarmac shortly after landing in Atlanta. After about two hours, the pilot announced that the power company had determined the cause of the failure and that it still might take hours to fix.

“There are a lot of families here with young kids,” he said in a telephone interview. “I imagine it’s not ideal for them, but we’re doing all right overall.”

He added that many passengers were having phone service issues, making information — and entertainment — even harder to find.

John Kraft, a spokesman for Georgia Power, the utility that serves the airport, said in a telephone interview on Sunday afternoon that he could not provide details about the failure.

“We are aware of an issue at the airport,” he said. “We have crews in the field responding. We’re working closely with the airport at this time.”