A power outage on Sunday brought the busiest airport in the world to a halt over the weekend, helping to ruin holiday season travel for many with hundreds of flights already cancelled on Monday.
Atlanta’s busy airport lost its power just after 1 p.m. EST Sunday, leaving thousands of passengers trapped inside terminals and some who were in planes on the tarmac for hours.
Late Sunday, over 1,173 flights had already been canceled with another 207 delayed. Delta Air Lines, which has its headquarters in Atlanta, announced that it was cancelling as many as 300 flights on Monday, with most of those being in Atlanta.
Kasim Reed the Mayor of Atlanta said the main substation had caught fire and triggered the huge outage, which immediately caused the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to place a ground stop, slowing or halting all inbound air traffic.
Reed during his news conference apologized to all the passengers whose day was interrupted in this way. He added that he knew the outage caused largescale frustration as well as anger and everything was being done to get the system operating once again and people to where they need to go.
Extreme heat added to dangerous toxic fumes from the fire prevented firefighters with electrical workers from gaining access to an underground tunnel so they could assess damage for close to two hours, and thus delayed the restoration of the airport’s electricity for longer.
Officials were investigating the fire’s cause and did not rule out late Sunday the possibility of terrorism
Reed said that all passengers were deplaned just after 10:00 pm EST, and personnel in law enforcement were combing the entire airport for any security breaches.
Passengers arriving for departing flights were greeted with long lines and an airport that was pitch black. No elevators, escalators or information screens worked after 1:00 p.m. EST Sunday.
One passenger said he had been returning from Dallas when the power went out. He said he was stuck inside the plane sitting on the tarmac for close to six hours.
The pilot of that plane warned passengers that the power would likely be out until after 11:00 pm EST.
People were being very calm said witnesses, as they realized the fault was not with the airlines.
The passenger said he was told that the passengers would exit the plane quickly, but the airport did not have enough stair cars and required busses so there was not a very clear and precise timetable.