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Power restored, but frustration still high

  • Alexis Canete rests on his luggage as he waits in the Delta ticket line to get back home to Cuba from his visit to Tennessee on Monday Dec. 18, 2017 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, the day after a massive power outage brought operations to halt. Power was restored at the world's busiest airport after a massive outage Sunday afternoon that left planes and passengers stranded for hours, forced airlines to cancel more than 1,100 flights and created a logistical... JOHN SPINK / AJC

  • Destiny Easley and Bronx from Jacksonville, Alabama on her way to Buckeye, Arizona had to miss her flight because of the long lines at the Delta ticket counter on Monday Dec. 18, 2017 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, the day after a massive power outage brought operations to halt. Power was restored at the airport after a massive outage Sunday afternoon that left planes and passengers stranded for hours, forced airlines to cancel more than 1,100 flights and... JOHN SPINK / AJC

  • Kenneth Reyes, 2, watches phone cartoons as his parents, Lucas and Areli and sister, Yosselyn-11 sleep on the second floor of the atrium overnight into Monday morning, Dec. 18, 2017, at the airport. The family was traveling from Atlanta back home to New York City and had to settle for water and potato chips until power was restored. The ticket counters were swamped with travelers on Monday Dec. 18, 2017 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport the day after a massive power outage... JOHN SPINK / AJC

  • The ticket counters are swamped with travelers in the North terminal on Monday Dec. 18, 2017 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, the day after a massive power outage brought operations to halt. Power was restored at the airport after a massive outage Sunday afternoon that left planes and passengers stranded for hours, forced airlines to cancel more than 1,100 flights and created a logistical nightmare during the already-busy holiday travel season. (John Spink/Atlanta... JOHN SPINK / AJC

  • Travelers pass under the flight board showing cancellations in the North terminal on Monday Dec. 18, 2017 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta the day after a massive power outage brought operations to halt. Power was restored at the world's busiest airport after a massive outage Sunday afternoon that left planes and passengers stranded for hours, forced airlines to cancel more than 1,100 flights and created a logistical nightmare during the already-busy holiday travel... JOHN SPINK / AJC

  • Travelers sleep in the atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Monday, the day after a massive power outage brought operations to halt. AP



Associated Press
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The nation’s air-travel system struggled to get back on schedule and re-book stranded passengers Monday after a fire and blackout at the world’s busiest airport forced the cancellation of over 1,500 flights days before the start of the Christmas rush.

Travelers sat on the floor, slumped in chairs or stood in long lines at ticket counters a day after the underground blaze knocked out electricity and crippled Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for about 11 hours.

A spokesman for Delta, by far the biggest airline at the airport, said most of its delayed passengers were booked on other flights scheduled to leave Monday. Spokesman Michael Thomas said the airline should be “largely if not completely” back to normal by Tuesday, well before the huge travel weekend ahead of Christmas Day.

But no matter how fast Delta and other airlines move, it will take a few days to get the hundreds of thousands of grounded passengers to their final destinations, said Robert Mann, president of an airline consulting firm in Port Washington, N.Y. In rare cases, some passengers won’t arrive until Thursday, he said.

“There are just so few seats available during a peak holiday week, that’s just going to take a lot of flights with four or five seats apiece,” Mann said.

Southwest, the airport’s second-largest airline, said it was back on a normal schedule, but a spokesman could not say how long it would take to clear the backlog of stranded travelers.

American Airlines, which is much smaller, said that it, too, booked many of its passengers on new flights but that some will have to wait until later in the week to fly.

The fire broke out Sunday afternoon next to equipment for a backup system, causing that to fail, too. Power wasn’t fully restored until about midnight.

The control tower did not lose power because it has a separate electrical feed, and planes that were in the air and close to Atlanta when the blackout hit were allowed to land. Other incoming flights were diverted, and outgoing flights were halted.

Anthony Foxx, who was transportation secretary under President Barack Obama, was among many travelers stuck for hours in a plane on the tarmac. He blasted airport officials, saying the problem was “compounded by confusion and poor communication.”

“Total and abject failure here at ATL Airport today,” he tweeted, adding that there was “no excuse for lack of workable redundant power source. NONE!”

Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers issued an apology and blamed the fire on a failure in a switch gear. He said the utility is considering a change in the setup of the main and backup systems to prevent a similar blackout.

Around noon Monday, stranded travelers sat on the floor, charging cellphones at the electrical outlets. An Atlanta city employee in a Santa hat gave out candy.

David and Lynn Carden, sitting in soft chairs in the airport’s atrium, left London early Sunday for Key West, Fla., but were diverted to Cincinnati because of the blackout. Delta got them a hotel room and put them on a Monday flight to Atlanta. From there, they awaited an afternoon flight to Florida.

“Delta has been pretty good,” David Carden said, counting themselves luckier than passengers who spent the night in an airport. “We don’t always get this kind of customer service in the U.K.”