ATLANTA - An electrical outage at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Sunday brought the world’s busiest airport to its knees for nearly 12 hours, causing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and leaving passengers stranded.
Channel 2's Tyisha Fernandes at the airport said the plane trains were down for hours Monday morning but were restored by the afternoon.
Fernandes met a woman who hadn't heard about power issues. She ended up having to walk about 2 miles to get to her flight.
“They didn't even tell us the trains weren't working,” said Palek Patel. “There was just massive chaos when we got off the place everyone was just looking around, so yeah.”
Patel said when she walked off her plane, she saw people sleeping on the floor and long lines at the ticket counters.
When she got to the plane train, Patel said it was dark and there were no trains in sight.
She told Fernandes they had to walk about 20 minutes to get to their bags.
Barb Strumpler said she waited in a the Delta ticket line for more than 3 hours Monday morning, as well as 3 hours on Sunday.
Strumpler said the wait wasn't her biggest concern. She was more worried about her mother.
"All I need is a gate pass to go get my mother, who is blind, at the terminal," Strumpler said.
In a statement from Georgia Power late Sunday night, the utility company said they believe “a piece of Georgia Power switchgear located in an underground electrical facility could have failed and started a fire. This fire was located adjacent to redundant circuit cables and switching mechanisms serving the airport and those cables were damaged, resulting in the outage and loss of redundant service methods.”
Georgia Power said they are still investigating the incident.
Power restored for all essential activities at— Georgia Power (@GeorgiaPower) December 18, 2017
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport pic.twitter.com/3oHcky3byM
The effects of the outage could be felt at airports across the country. The FAA ordered a ground stop on all flights headed to the airport due to the power outage. International flights into Atlanta were being diverted to other airports.
Channel 2's Nefertiti Jaquez learned airlines JetBlue, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest and American Airlines canceled all flights for the remainder of the day Sunday after learning about the massive power outage.
“All the airlines that are canceled, they’re saying we basically have to leave the airport. But there are people here who have nowhere to do so. What do you want us to do?” traveler Shannon Moore said.
Delta Airlines canceled approximately 900 mainline and regional flights on Sunday.
As systems come back online Sunday night, the big issue the airport will face now is getting stranded passengers to their destinations.
As the power came back on inside the airport, people could be seen lining up in the security lines looking to get to their gates.
[PHOTOS: Power outage paralyzes Atlanta airport]
It was a frustrating night for many passengers who had nowhere to go.
“It's extremely frustrating, because there's family that's expecting me and now I’m not going to be there,” traveler Brittany Crider told Channel 2’s Matt Johnson.
“We sat on the tarmac for five hours,” traveler Denise Dirosa said.
The city ended up taking many of the stranded passengers to the Georgia International Congress Center.
Chick-fil-A provided more than 5,000 meals to passengers.
One man said he had no other place to go.
“I’m looking for hotel accommodations but of course they were out of rooms by the time we got here because everybody else had kind of swooped those up,” Barry Allen said.
Channel 2’s Lauren Pozen found nearly every hotel near the airport was booked to capacity Sunday night.
Nick Birgil told Pozen that he had to call his company to book him a room for the night.
“It was hard to get anybody on the phone, and we didn’t have any service. No one was able to call anybody,” Birgil said.
Melanie Hope was not so lucky.
“We got the first shuttle we could to get out. We went to the Westin, but it’s booked. We went online and found the Days Inn,” Hope said.
A travel waiver has been issued for Delta customers flying to, from or through Atlanta allowing customers to make one-time changes to their travel plans. To learn more, click here.
In a tweet from the company early Monday morning, Delta said it expected to have its flight schedule back to normal by Monday afternoon.
Power has returned to @ATLairport following Sunday’s outage affecting all airlines and resulting in approximately 900 Delta cancellations, with an additional 300 cancellations on the books for Monday.— Delta (@Delta) December 18, 2017
Most of the 300 Delta cancellations Monday are early morning, inbound flights to ATL to give the operation there an opportunity to more quickly rebound. Delta’s flight schedule in ATL is expected to return to normal by Monday afternoon.— Delta (@Delta) December 18, 2017
Delta is working hard to reaccommodate customers. Those who need booking assistance or an updated flight status are encouraged to go to the Fly Delta app or https://t.co/yQj0bzerMw, as telephone volumes are longer than normal.— Delta (@Delta) December 18, 2017
Customers with checked luggage ending their travel in Atlanta can file a claim with a Baggage Service agent in the Atlanta Airport or via https://t.co/yQj0bzerMw. Due to congestion, customers are encouraged not to pick up their bags at the @ATLairport Monday.— Delta (@Delta) December 18, 2017
Delta has temporarily embargoed travel for unaccompanied minors through ATL Monday due to the power outage. Unaccompanied minors who already began their travel Sunday may continue.— Delta (@Delta) December 18, 2017
Delta customers flying to, from or though Atlanta through 12/19 can make a one-time change to their travel plans. Details are available here: https://t.co/7gyCLOIh6O— Delta (@Delta) December 18, 2017
Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former American Airlines executive, said it likely will be Tuesday 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 said.
One bit of good news, according to Mann: Delta has more spare planes and available crews in Atlanta than anywhere else, which will help it to recover.
Still, when flights at Atlanta were grounded for most of one day last spring, it took Delta five days — and about 4,000 canceled flights — before it fully recovered.
Like Sunday's outage, that April storm hit Delta's largest hub at a busy travel time when there weren't many empty seats to accommodate customers from canceled flights. At the time, CEO Ed Bastian vowed that Delta would make "significant improvements" to its system for scheduling and tracking aircraft crews to recover more quickly from disruptions.
At Southwest Airlines, about 70 Atlanta departures out of 120 scheduled for Sunday were canceled, an airline spokesman said in an email. United Airlines and JetBlue Airways were among carriers reporting delays or cancellations.
American Airlines reported only a handful of diversions and cancellations because the carrier does not use Atlanta as a hub, airline spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello.
Hartsfield-Jackson, which serves 104 million passengers a year, is the world's busiest airport, a distinction it has held since 1998.
The airport serves an average of 275,000 passengers daily, according to its website. Nearly 2,500 planes arrive and depart each day.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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