Operations return to normal at Atlanta's airport after crippling power outage

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Passengers who arrived at the world's busiest airport Tuesday morning said it appeared as if nothing had happened just two days after flights came to a halt at Hartsfield-Jackon Atlanta International. Georgia Power continues to investigate the exact cause of the outage, but said a fire in an underground electrical facility damaged lines providing power to the airport. 

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The power outage lasted nearly 11 hours Sunday and crippled air travel at the nation's busiest airport and the impact was still being felt on Monday.

"They just continued to delay the flights constantly," said Jermaine Williams who sat in the airport for hours Sunday afternoon before giving up and finding a hotel room for the night.

Williams could not find a flight on his original airline until Wednesday, so he canceled that reservation and re-booked with another airline to return home to Chicago late Monday night.

"I haven't seen anything about cancellations," said Williams. "I hope everything goes smooth."

Officials said the outage caused by a fire that damaged electrical equipment brought the airport to a standstill Sunday. Hundreds of flights were canceled, and the travel slowdowns continued early Monday as airlines tried to deal with a huge backlog of passengers. 

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Thousands arrived at Atlanta's airport before sunrise Monday to find long lines at ticket counters. Some people reported waiting in lines for longer than three hours in hopes of booking new flights. Many of those passengers were forced to sleep at the airport as officials worked to resolve the power issues. 

TSA security checkpoints re-opened at 3:30 a.m., but slowdowns continued throughout the morning. Passengers with a ticket dated "December 17" will also need to reprint before being processed through checkpoints. 

PHOTOS: Power outage cripples Atlanta airport


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Sunday night some 30,000 people were affected by the outage. As crews worked to restore power, security teams swept the airport to make sure the facility was secure.

MORE: Passengers react to airport power outage

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for all flights into Hartsfield-Jackson after the power outage began around 1 p.m. Sunday.


The ground stop meant that flights into Atlanta were held at their departure airports.

"Our primary focus now is to investigate what happened to ensure that that never happens again," Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers in a video release Monday evening.

Georgia Power said that a fire in an underground equipment room led to the outage. The fire caused a number of faults with Georgia Power's systems at the airport, the company said. The fire damaged backup systems, preventing them from providing power to the airport as designed. The cause of that fire remains under investigation, but Georgia Power says equipment failure may be to blame.

Power was fully restored to the airport by 11:45 p.m. Sunday, but hundreds of flights to and from Atlanta Sunday were canceled. The airport terminals were dark and crowded with travelers. 

MORE: Georgia Power investigates fire that caused airport outage

Delta Air Lines said it canceled about 900 Delta and Delta Connection flights Sunday. Delta announced Sunday night that another 300 flights were canceled Monday, as well.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that because of the power outage, arriving international flights were diverted to other airports in the region.

Delta Air Lines official Twitter account tweeted travel waivers will be given out for December 17 and 18.

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines canceled all remaining flights Sunday due to the power outage. 

MARTA reported it was not affected by the outage and trains were running on normal schedules. MARTA added extra staff to deal with the situation.

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Some passengers reported being stuck in airplanes on the tarmac for hours. By 10 p.m. Sunday, officials said all passengers had deplaned from flights that arrived just before or during the power outage.

Airport officials were working with Chick-fil-a to provide food to stranded passengers. Hotels near the airport were fully booked, and MARTA trains into the city were packed Sunday afternoon and evening with travelers in search of places to stay. The city was also working to provide accommodations for travelers at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park, near the airport.


RELATED: Chick-fil-A opens on a Sunday for passengers at Atlanta’s airport

Early Monday morning long lines formed at both the Delta and Southwest counters as stranded passengers tried to rebook their canceled flights. 

Delta hopes to return to normal service by the afternoon, but some of the fliers we talked with said they couldn't get a flight out of Atlanta until Tuesday.