Thousands of Atlanta passengers are trapped on planes and in the terminal without food or water while more than 1,000 flights are canceled after massive blackout paralyzes world's busiest airport
- Tens of thousands of passengers are stranded at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
- Power outage has caused more than 1,000 flights to be cancelled at the airport - the busiest in the world
- Blackout halted all outgoing flights, and arriving planes were held on the ground at their point of departure
- Delta cancelled almost 800 Sunday flights and another 300 on Monday, nearly all of them in Atlanta
- Georgia Power says outage was caused by a fire and it expects power to be restored at the airport by midnight
Tens of thousands of passengers are stranded at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after a power outage caused more than 1,000 flights to be cancelled just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush.
Passengers were left in the dark when the lights suddenly went out around 1pm Sunday.
The blackout halted all outgoing flights, and arriving planes were held on the ground at their point of departure. International flights were being diverted, officials said.
Passengers inside the airport are lighting their way with their cell phones and people in wheelchairs are having to be carried down stairwells. People have reportedly been stuck on planes for more than seven hours.
Twitter user @VolsGuy2 wrote: 'Try being stuck on a plane for over 7 hours... still stuck no food, no water, bathrooms full. No updates... get us out of here!'
CNN producer Betsy Klein was stuck on a plane for more than six hours and live-tweeted her ordeal.
She wrote: 'Pilot, just now: "I still think we're quite a ways from getting deplaned... I certainly thought it'd be taken care of by now... not really sure how long it's gonna take for us to get there." Still no food/water. Toilets have been dumped so won't overflow. We passed 6-hour mark.'
After deplaning, she added: 'Hartsfield looks like a war zone. People sleeping on the floor, fighting mostly civilly over outlets, elderly people and small children struggling with stairs... It is SWELTERING inside the airport... There are people sleeping on baggage claim belts. The line for delta support is VERY long.'
Twitter user Marietta echoed claims there is no water inside the terminal.
'Why doesn’t Atlanta have an “emergency backup system”?' she wrote. 'The mayor said that they had passed out water but my son never saw it. What about the old people or children with no food water or place to sleep but a cold, barely lighted terminal. THEY SHOULD BE ASHAMED!!!'
Georgia Power says that it expects power to be restored at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport by midnight.
At 7.32pm ET Atlanta Airport tweeted: 'Power on Concourse F is back ON! We are working with great urgency w/ @GeorgiaPower to restore power throughout rest of airport.'
In a news release Sunday evening, the utility said the 'the issue may have involved a fire which caused extensive damage in a Georgia Power underground electrical facility.' The cause of the fire was not known, the statement says, but it impacted underground facilities and substations serving the airport.
By evening, Delta had already cancelled almost 800 Sunday flights and another 300 on Monday, nearly all of them in Atlanta, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.
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 cancelled 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 cancelled 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.