Atlanta’s Airport Blackout Will Cause Nationwide Travel Woes for Days

December 18, 2017, 1:09 PM UTC

Although power has been restored at the world’s busiest airport after 11 hours in the dark, many people’s holiday season travel woes will continue for days as the knock-on effect of delays and cancellations continues into the week.

A fire in an underground electrical facility at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday afternoon caused over 1,000 flights to be grounded, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

Because flights have so few empty seats at this time in the holiday season, airlines will struggle to accommodate disrupted passengers, Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former American Airlines executive, told the Associated Press. Some passengers might be disrupted for “most of the week,” he said.

Airlines themselves are expected to recover more quickly. However, Delta, which has its biggest base of operations in Atlanta, cancelled nearly 900 flights on Sunday and a further 300 on Monday.

Delta said its Atlanta operation was expected to return to normal by Monday afternoon, though it informed customers wait times on its telephone lines were longer than usual, and asked passengers not to come to the airport to collect lost luggage.

In a post on its website, the airline said customers flying to or from Atlanta between Dec. 17-19 could make a one-time change to travel plans without incurring the usual fee, in an effort to reduce disruption. It also said it had temporarily embargoed travel for unaccompanied minors, without indicating when the embargo would end.

When Atlanta’s airport suffered a similar spate of cancellations for most of one day last spring, it took Delta five days before it fully recovered. After that, Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian vowed to make “significant improvements” to the system it uses to recover from disruptions. That system will be put to the test this week.