ATLANTA—Minutes after its midnight deadline to get the electricity back on at the world's busiest airport, Georgia Power announced early today that power had been fully restored to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, where more than 1,000 flights were grounded just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush.
A sudden power outage caused by a fire in an underground electrical facility brought the airport to a standstill.
Georgia Power said on its Twitter page that “Power has been restored on all concourses. 5,000+ meals are being delivered to passengers. Trains will be operational soon.”
Passengers at the airport were left in the dark when the lights went out at around 1 p.m.
The outage halted all outgoing flights while arriving planes were held on the ground at their point of departure.
International flights were being diverted, officials said.
Mayor Kasim Reed tweeted last night that all passengers had been safely deplaned.
The City of Atlanta said on its Twitter page that it would provide shuttle service to the Georgia Convention Center for travellers in need of a place to stay and Chick-fil-A would be provided.
Delta passenger Emilia Duca, 32, was on her way to Wisconsin from Bogota, Colombia when she got stuck in Atlanta.
She said police made passengers who were in the baggage-claim area move to a higher floor.
She noted restaurants and shops were closed and vending machines weren't working.
“A lot of people are arriving and no one is going out,” Duca said.
“No one is saying anything official. We are stuck here,” she added.
“It's a nightmare.”
Adding to the nightmare are what some passengers said was a lack of information from airport officials and help from first responders to get the disabled and the elderly through the airport without the use of escalators and elevators.
“They had these elderly people, handicapped people, lined up in wheelchairs,” said stranded passenger Rutia Curry.
“The people were helpless, they can't get down the stairs, it was just a nightmare.”
Passenger James Beatty said there was no real method for evacuation, and that passengers carried those who used wheelchairs down stairs.
Delta, with its biggest hub operation in Atlanta, will be hardest hit.
By evening, Delta already had cancelled almost 900 flights yesterday and another 300 today, nearly all of them in Atlanta, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.
Delta customers flying to or from Atlanta can make a one-time change to travel plans without incurring a $200 change fee.
The airline also encouraged travellers not to pick up their bags today because of anticipated congestion at the airport.
Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former American Airlines executive, said it likely will be tomorrow before Delta's operations in Atlanta return to normal, and for passengers “it could be most of the week” because there aren't many open seats on other flights in the last week before Christmas.
“Tomorrow is going to be a long and difficult day for everybody,” Mann predicted.