Delta Scraps 400 Flights in Day 2 of Atlanta Disruptions

Updated on
  • Local utility says power restored for ‘essential activities’
  • No evidence electrical fire was set on purpose, mayor says
Bloomberg’s Justin Bachman discusses the blackout nightmare at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Delta Air Lines Inc. and other carriers worked to get thousands of stranded passengers onto planes after a major electrical disruption in Atlanta crippled service at the world’s busiest hub, extending flight cancellations into a second day.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport still had 412 inbound and outbound cancellations on Monday after 1,183 the day before, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking service. Delta, which dominates service at the airport, reported 400 scrubbed flights on Monday. Southwest Airlines Co. said it was operating its full schedule after scrapping 70 flights Sunday.

While most power was restored around midnight, some operations had yet to return fully as of 9:30 a.m. The SkyTrain connecting the airport with an off-site rental car facility and the underground Plane Train linking concourses were both expected to begin running again around 10 a.m., airport spokesman Reese McCranie said.

Passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

Photographer: Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP Photo

The local utility in charge of the electricity supply, Georgia Power Co., said a fire caused “extensive damage” in an underground facility, though no passengers or workers were in any danger.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the blaze’s intensity damaged the switch that would have allowed the built-in backup power systems to take over. Heat and fumes in underground tunnels complicated matters further by preventing Georgia Power crews from starting work on repairs for some time and lengthened the disruption, he said at a Sunday night news conference.

There is “no evidence to suggest the fire was caused deliberately,” Reed said.

Failure Point

The backup system’s failure to take over didn’t surprise Bob Edwards, a former chief information officer at United Continental Holdings Inc., who witnessed a similar shutdown in Houston about 15 years ago. 

Every airport will have redundancy, “but in almost every case there’s some point in your solution where you’ve got a single point of failure,” he said.

A massive failure at Delta’s Atlanta computer center in the summer of 2016 and a round of storms in April each sidelined thousands flights, costing the airline $150 million and $125 million, respectively. Delta’s shares rose less than 1 percent to $56.27 at 12:01 p.m. Monday in New York.

Georgia Power said Monday that all “essential activities” at the airport, including all concourses and flight operations, have power.

The electricity went out after 1 p.m. Sunday, prompting the Federal Aviation Administration to issue a stop on all flights heading to Hartsfield-Jackson. Aircraft were held at their departure airports and planes in the air were diverted to other cities, the airport said.

At one point, Delta had almost 100 planes that were unable to park at gates because of the power power failure, an airline spokesman said. Airlines were still retrieving bags misplaced in Sunday’s chaos.

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