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[WATCH] Atlanta: Over 1,000 flights cancelled as blackout strikes world’s busiest airport

All outgoing flights were stopped, arriving planes held at point of departure and all international flights diverted

18 December 2017, 8:36am
Hartsfield-Jackson airport (Photo: Christopherson Business Travel)
Hartsfield-Jackson airport (Photo: Christopherson Business Travel)
 

A sudden blackout brought the world’s busiest airport to a complete standstill on Sunday, grounder over 1,000 flights in the US, just days before Christmas.

Passengers at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta were left in the dark when the electricity cut at around 1pm. According to officials, all outgoing flights were stopped, arriving planes were held at the point of departure and international flights were being diverted.

A fire caused “extensive damage” to the complex’s electrical systems, according to the airport. Fire crews put out the flames and repair crews from Georgia Power restored power to all areas after around 11 hours. In spite of the power returning, the incident is expected to have wreaked havoc on the holiday plans of thousands.

According to Georgia Power, the cause of the outage is unknown and such outages were “very rare.”

The hardest airline hit was Delta, with its biggest hub operation being in Atlanta.

By the evening, 900 Sunday flights had already been cancelled and another 300 were cancelled on Monday, with almost all of them being in Atlanta, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Aviation consultant and former American Airlines executive Robert Mann, said it would be Tuesday before Delta’s operations in Atlanta returned to normal, and for passengers “it could be most of the week” because there weren’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.

When flights at Atlanta were grounded for most of one day in April, it took Delta five days and about 4,000 cancelled flights before it fully recovered.

At Southwest Airlines, about 70 Atlanta departures out of 120 scheduled for Sunday were cancelled, an airline spokesman said in an email. United Airlines and JetBlue Airways were among carriers reporting delays or cancellations.

Passengers stranded and unable to fly were being taken to the Georgia International Convention Centre for the night.

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.