Atlanta Airport Completely Shuts Down

Filed Under: Delta

I don’t even know what to say here, other than “wow.” Since earlier today, Atlanta Airport has shut down due to a lack of power. Those in the airport have been quite literally left in the dark.

Georgia Power is working on restoring power to the airport as quickly as possible, though in reality it may be several more hours before that happens (they hope to have power restored by midnight).

This is due to an electrical fire that caused extensive damage to the underground electrical facility. Here’s the full statement from Atlanta Airport:

This has caused hundreds of flights to be canceled, and given that Atlanta is a fortress hub for Delta, has impacted their flights disproportionately.

While Delta is known for their excellent operational performance, they sure haven’t had it easy recently, especially as it impacts Atlanta Airport. In April the airline had a global computer meltdown that crippled their operations for days. Then just over a week ago Atlanta Airport had hundreds of cancelations due to snow. And now there’s this.

Keep in mind that this can impact you even if you’re not flying to or from Atlanta, given how easily airline networks can fall apart when one part of the operation experiences problems. For example, if you’re flying Delta to just about anywhere, there’s a good chance your plane may be flying to/from Atlanta in the past 24 hours, and might be impacted.

So make sure you stay on top of things, especially as we’re approaching the super peak holiday travel season, where there aren’t many options for getting rebooked. Furthermore, if you’re traveling to/from Atlanta, most major airlines have issued travel waivers.

What. A. Mess.

Anyone impacted by the Atlanta meltdown this evening?

  1. Was just reading stories about this on Twitter and gotta wonder: there is no back-up or redundant power supply at the world’s largest airport? Hello 16 years after 9/11 they are in fact sitting in the dark. Truly astounding.

  2. I genuinely feel sorry for the airport and airlines staff, those not responsible for what is going on! I’m sure many of them don’t know either what the next steps are suppose to be or have their hands bound on decision making. I used to work in similar [24/7 emergency environment] and it’s sickening to deal with pax who is not only frustrated (totally understandable!) BUT who won’t understand people are trying to help. Pax who keep shouting over one another, again won’t listen to you when you are trying to help … in the end, doesn’t matter how helpful you are trying to be, you just give up. So, please think of those who will in the next days try to help out, don’t make their lives more difficult.

  3. They almost certainly have a back up power supply. It sounds like the issues are about connecting that power supply to the rest of the airport.

  4. AKL not having fuel is another problem, but ATL is the world’s busiest airport, surely they have back-ups? Many lives are put at risk.

  5. This shitshow started just after 1300 today.

    New statement from Delta’s CEO blames the outage on Qatar Airlines hackers, subsidized by their government and swears that Delta will never lose power (or money) again. Affected customers will be offered cots and some room temperature soup commandeered from the T concourse AA Club.

  6. This is why Atlanta need another airport like you see in Dallas. Its not good to put everything in one nest.

  7. My flight was progressively delayed then eventually cancelled. Thankfully saw the reports before driving into the airport and have family in the Atlanta area to stay with. I’m nervous about the chaos in the AM.

  8. Hey Nom Nom, you have got to be kidding right? You feel especially sorry for airline staff that have cars waiting in parking lots and homes to go to when their shift is over but not for the once or twice a year traveler ….sitting in a dark airport, has no idea what the hell is going on, doesn’t have a car, doesn’t have a hotel room, Doesn’t know when or if they’ll ever get a flight. Did I get that right?

    And Ben, please stop the BS that Delta runs this great operation. They don’t. Delta and the Atlanta airport deserve each other. Spare me the operational greatness when once a quarter you have a massive IT or power failure…. or there is an inch and a half of snow in the Atlanta area and shuts the airport down for two days (one week ago).

  9. My wife and mother-in-law were arriving at 1pm today. I was on my way to pick them up when wife texted that there was no power in B concourse so they were waiting on the tarmac. I called and said I would just wait for them in the cell phone lot. Thankfully, I had Sirius NFL games and a full tank of gas (it was also 44 and raining).

    By 4pm, I had to pee, so I walked on the road around to the South Terminal and went inside to the restroom. There was definitely a “Walking Dead” moment there walking on the road through the traffic. I was struck by how calm everyone was, both passengers and staff. I walked back to the car and my family finally got to the main terminal around 5:30 so I drove around to the lower level (where police were letting cars through – only shuttle buses on the upper level) and picked them up. We got home around 7, but many planes were still stuck on the taxiways when I left. What a disaster for the airport and while it’s not Delta’s fault, it’s a PR nightmare for them as well.

  10. Reminds me a bit of Die Hard 2, except ATL instead of DC.
    Some peoples job will be eliminated in the following days.

  11. @RoloT,

    Take a deep breath. No one of us here turned off the lights at the airport. Promise!

    Maybe you should join the protest outside the Atlanta airport.

  12. Debit, WTF are you on about? Jeezus your act is tired. How about you take a deep breath and then hold it….,until further notice.

  13. Some report are saying there are backup power supplies, but they’re all (except for the control tower, which has an independent generator) apparently all routed through the substation that was knocked out. Sounds like a design flaw, but we may have to wait for more detailed reports to confirm that.

  14. LOL good thing Delta clarified last week that “only weather” will cause cancellations for them in future. Too bad they don’t have an interline agreement with American anymore…

    Seriously though, how is it possible for the power at a whole airport the size of ATL to go down? Surely they should have multiple backups? Incredible.

  15. As an electrical engineer I’m guessing the Automatic Transfer Switch that shifts from utility to generator was also compromised if it was located in the substation which is likely as the ATS is tied to the main distribution hub going to airport (think of a T junction where each side of the horizontal line is the utility and ATS, the vertical is main fees to airport). Those with the armchair reaction about a backup supply need to understand how it actually works to funnel electricity back to the airport

  16. @Kerry and others. Exactly. This is the largest, busiest airport in the world. In this Day and Age in a developed country… I don’t know… would never thought this is possible.

    I got bit impatient after our flight two weeks ago got delayed due to snow. However I arrived home on the same day. I fully understand how the travellers may feel there now, just so much worse. Also as one commenter said, the employees will not have it easy either. What a mess overall.

  17. Well I luckily got off my plane at 12:50 right before the power outage. I also luckily work for Marriott and got a cheap room at the JW Buckhead as soon as the power went out. And the luck doesn’t end there…. Delta decided to upgrade me to first class from Comfort + for free, but I am stuck an extra day. The airport was surprisingly calm, but security was trying to prevent people from leaving the terminal, which was ridiculous. I asked the security guard if I’d be arrested for walking down the escalators to ground transportation and he obviously said no, so I left with some other passengers. It was really weird being in a blackout at a hub though. America needs to do something with our pathetic airports. At least Delta was nice to me because I was nice to them. I can’t imagine what their customer service agents have dealt with today.

  18. We sat on a Delta flight for five hours on the runway – no actually the parking lot of the Radisson hotel because there was no space left – with barely a sip of water. Awful. After five and a half hours they let us deplane into the terminal. To a black out terminal with not a delta employee in sight. No one to help. And can’t get through on the phone. Have no idea about luggage or what I’m supposed to expect tomorrow. This is an absolute nightmare. Left the airport out of fear.

  19. Update to my prior comment:

    The New York Times reports of the fire: “It also damaged a backup system that provides power to the airport in emergencies.”

    Sadly this will become a textbook case for future airport design and where to locate emergency / backup power systems.

  20. Betty and Kerry,
    I don’t think interlining agreement would have helped in this case. All airlines including Delta and American have been grounded.

  21. And….I’ve been on hold with Delta for 2 hours and 2 minutes to try and re-route myself.
    Why not earlier? Because the five hours we spent on the runway there was no cell service.
    Until there was a medical emergency on our plane and we pulled closer to the Radisson.
    In fact, there was no uber service at the airport for the first hour we searched. All in all,
    bad. Really bad.

  22. Mayor was certain there were no medical emergencies, interesting, when we have a first hand account here….

  23. Really grateful to Lucky and another Points Guy out there for the fact that I quickly moved on a last-minute AA booking using Avios to dodge the whole mess of my scheduled DL flight to ATL and reroute to CLT. Will need to fight out refunds, etc later, but this incident made all those points/miles articles over the years worth the read.

  24. Holy crap! The last time I was at an airport when it lost power and was in total darkness was in Khartoum, Sudan! In 1975! I remember an Iranian traveler next to us pulled out his lighter and the terminal was lit in an eerie glow that looked like inside a tomb from a period movie lol.

    Ever since then, every airport I been at around the world when power was lost had redundant or even double or triple redundant UPS’s. This is unbelievable for 2017 in the richest country on earth.

  25. @Adnan Putting people on AA wouldnt have helped anybody already at ATL, but anybody who would be flying through ATL could have been put on AA through CLT, or one of their other hubs, as needed. This kind of thing just underscores how foolish Delta’s hubris is.

    Saying they’ll never have ops issues again and cutting themselves off from being able to inter line people because they don’t want to be AA’s backup is almost as ridiculous as Doug Parker saying that AA will never lose money again.

  26. @Andan
    Interline agreement wouldn’t hep much on Monday, but I suppose it would have helped in coming week(s?) when 1000s of Delta flights will be canceled.
    It’s not over yet. 2hr Delta’s IT systems’ outage last year was re vibrating for at least a week.
    This is worse i think.

  27. I’m flying today, and nearly had a panic attack when I saw Delta’s tweet (which is how I was notified) before realizing I was flying KLM metal (CPH-AMS-YYZ) so I shouldn’t be affected. But above posters are right – there are probably a lot of people scheduled to fly in the coming days through Atlanta that wont be able to – possibly enough to overcrowd delta planes already full of holiday passengers. Interline agreements could have helped reroute passengers away from ATL as soon as the issue was discovered.

    That said, for once, this actually isn’t Delta’s fault. They have no control over power generations (or the airport, really, airports are owned by the county/municipality I believe?) That is one serious design flaw in the power delivery system though…

  28. I’m flying MSP to CLT today
    hopefully my flight isn’t affected

    Delta’s issue isn’t only that they refuse to interline

    It’s also that they decided to route everything to Atlanta and even transfer business from the other hubs to Atlanta

    Atlanta is not the end all be all of aviation

  29. I apologize, this whole mess was all my fault. Around 1pm I was using Delta’s website to perform a multi-city international award search when everything came crashing down.

  30. Sitting in the Concourse T SkyClub whish is full to capacity, but people are largely holding true to Southern norms and being polite despite a shortage of snacks and empty seats. The big inconvenience which doesn’t seem to be getting media coverage is that the train system is still down making for long walks for those in Concourses B-E.

  31. @CalanMan, spot on. Delta’s hubris will make this harder on their passengers than it needs to be.

    @Adnan, Was referring to Delta being unable to interline their pax outside of ATL. Their national/international operations will be heavily affected also, and they tore up the interline agreement with their largest competitor.

  32. Remember this from the Presidential debates last year?:

    “Trump compares US airports to ‘third-world’ country”. 😉

    Whose bright idea was it to apparently run all of the back up capacity for a huge airport thru a single power substation? Everyone who signed off on that should be prohibited from being involved in any way in construction design ever again.

  33. The outage took out multiple substations… not one. The airport’s power runs through more than one.

    Also, while i’m not a Delta fan (was, once upon a time…), remember that they stopped interlining with AA out of frustration when AA was sending 4-5x the passengers to them that they were sending to AA and AA didn’t want to compensation DL for that. I’m sure that it seemed like a good idea at a time.

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