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Passengers were in the dark and stuck in grounded planes on the tarmac at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on the afternoon of December 17, 2017, as a major power outage affected several areas of the airport. One woman at ATL described the scene as “literal pandemonium.”
Flight Aware is a good site to track delays. On December 17, it reported of the Atlanta airport, “all inbound flights being held at their origin until Thursday at 02:45PM EST. Departure delays an average of 34 minutes.”
The airport confirmed the outage had occurred in a brief statement posted on Twitter, but it has provided few details, which was outraging some passengers. “A power outage has impacted several areas in the airport. #ATL officials are working to remedy the situation. Additional updates to come,” wrote the airport on Twitter. The airport had said little else, but later tweeted, “The FAA has set a ground stop for flights into #ATL due to the outage. A ground stop means flights to ATL are held at departure airports.” The Atlanta airport also retweeted a post from Georgia Power that read, “We are aware of a situation currently being investigated at this time and will share more information as it becomes available.”
“A Delta Air Lines pilot said a construction crew cut a power line, causing the outage,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, but the official cause had not yet been revealed. Reporter Joe Henke of 11AliveNews tweeted, “@GeorgiaPower confirms there is a power outage at @ATLairport. GA Power confirms they have crews headed that way. No further details at this moment.”
Henke also wrote, “@ATLairport spokesman tells NBC News power outage happened around 12:55 p.m. Cause is an electrical issue at GA Power substation. @GeorgiaPower and @ATLFireRescue at the airport. A large portion of Hartsfield-Jackson is impacted.”
The FAA released a statement announcing a ground stop for flights.
The airport had not provided an additional update at about 2:12 p.m. eastern time on December 17. People expressed upset on social media by the lack of information from the airport, with one man writing, “Little more info? You’re not running a regional airport with 4 flights a day.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggested that people “check the official FAA website for air traffic control updates. As of 2 p.m., traffic destined to Atlanta was being delayed at its departure point.” Here’s that link.
One woman wrote on Twitter that she was stuck on the tarmac and “our captain has informed a construction crew CUT A POWER LINE and that is why the entire Atlanta Airport is without power. You cannot make this stuff up.” That cause was not yet confirmed by authorities or the airport, though. The woman who tweeted the comment followed it up by writing, “The cut power line is an uncertain factor…. not verified. Im just a disgruntled passenger and Saints fan. #ATLAirport.”
Other people reported that they were stuck on escalators. “I’m stuck between escalators with about 100 people and we’re not allowed up or down. Please pick up the pace–people are getting antsy,” reported one passenger, who wrote the comment to the airport’s Twitter page. The same man added,”TSA agents shouting at people to not go up or down the escalators.”
Others criticized the airport for taking too long to make the announcement, with one person writing, “You should be embarrassed about how long it took you to make an announcement on Twitter to calm passengers in terminals.” Wrote another, “Literal pandemonium at the @ATLairport with power completely out and electric exit doors unable to open. Baggage claim stuck, passengers can go no where! Which means traffic can’t either. GBI and other law enforcement on site now. Talk about delays! #atlanta.”
It’s not yet clear why the power went out at the busy airport or when it will go back on. There were reports that flights were grounded, and the outage was widespread. Photos showed people milling around in the dark.
One passenger wrote on Twitter, “More info needed @ATLairport – Stuck at gateway center train stop. What is going on? Lots of firetrucks is all we see.” Many people had the same question as this man, who wrote on Twitter: “@ATLairport , sitting in the plane at the gate. Any idea when the power will be restored?” However, authorities had not yet presented a timeline.
Here’s a video from the airport:
11Alive’s Faith Abubey “was in the North Terminal at the time of the outage, and reports that all power is out there. In speaking to staff at the United Airlines desk, she says she was told that the outage was over the entire airport and that flights were grounded,” reported 11Alive.com.
Although the outage was very inconveniencing to a lot of people, some people on social media decided to turn it into a joke.
Others didn’t think it was funny at all. “It would be cool if the people stuck waiting on their planes could get some water or food. We’ve been waiting almost an hour to get off the plane already,” wrote one woman on Twitter. Another woman wrote, “That’s terrible! I just got a text from @Delta saying my friend’s connection is scheduled to depart at 2:15… It doesn’t seem like she’d make it to her connection.”