ATLANTA — A power outage at the world’s busiest airport left thousands of passengers stranded in dark terminals and in planes sitting on the tarmac, as a ground stop for Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International disrupted air travel across the United States.
As of 6 p.m. MST Sunday, only one flight into Salt Lake City International airport had been cancelled.
The outage affected all airport operations. Georgia Power said the cause of the outage is not yet determined, though it may have involved a fire that caused extensive damage in a Georgia Power underground electrical facility. The fire impacted substations serving the airport. The utility said it expected power to be restored by midnight.
Incoming and outgoing flights at the airport were halted while crews worked to restore power. Atlanta is the heart of the US air transport system, and the disruption led to hundreds of flight delays and cancellations across the country.
Here are the latest developments:
– More than 600 flights to and from Atlanta have been canceled, including 350 departures, according to Flightradar24.
– Southwest, American and United airlines canceled operations in and out of Atlanta for the rest of Sunday.
– More than 450 Delta mainline and regional flights have been canceled.
– Flights headed to Atlanta are being held on the ground at their departure airport.
– Inbound flights to Atlanta are being diverted, US Customs and Border Protection said.
The outage cut power in the terminals, leaving passengers stranded in the dark as they stood in line at gates and security checkpoints. Brittny Dettro said she was waiting to board a flight from Atlanta to Milwaukee when the power went out in Terminal B. She shot this image at 1:10 p.m. ET.
People used flashlights on their phones to see where they were going, said passenger Heather Kerwin, an Atlanta resident bound for New York.
“There were a few emergency lights on, but it was really dark — felt totally apocalyptic,” she said. “I decided to get the hell out of there.”
Some passengers told CNN that airport and airline staff offered no updates as hours passed, leaving people scanning their phones and tablets for information. Stores stopped serving food and passengers were evacuated to alleviate crowding.
The outage left passengers sitting in planes on the tarmac for hours.
Jodi Green’s Delta flight from the Bahamas landed at 1:15 p.m. ET Sunday. As of 7 p.m. she was still on the plane with no end in sight.
The ground stop led Southwest Airlines to cancel all operations in and out of Atlanta for the rest of the day, spokesman Brian Parrish said. Customers are being offered re-bookings without fare differences, he said.
United and American Airlines also suspended operations to and from Atlanta for the rest of Sunday. Delta, which has its headquarters and largest hub in Atlanta, canceled more than 450 Delta mainline and regional flights as a result of the ground stop, the airline said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Atlanta Police urged people to stay away from the airport.
“We have no injuries, no one is harmed, everyone is safe, everything is orderly,” Sgt. Warren Pickard said. “What we need the public to understand right away is that we need everyone to refrain from coming to the airport.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated when the FAA grounded flights at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Flights were grounded shortly after the airport lost electricity at 1 p.m. ET.