Atlanta airport electricity was restored around midnight Sunday night after an outage that lasted 11 hours. After around 1000 flights were cancelled at the airport, many travelers simply stayed even though MARTA was running.
Always buy your tickets with a premium credit card that offers trip delay and cancellation coverage if you can it’s great to grab a hotel — take transit into the city if you must — and send the bill to your card company. That’s far better than the shelter the city offered stranded passengers at the convention center.
People reportedly lined up for TSA checkpoints after midnight to secure preferential places in line for when screening lanes opened at 3:30 a.m.
The Mayor of Atlanta says an underground fire damaged substations serving the airport, that the fire took out the primary and redundant system, suggesting that the redundancy may not have been well-designed. The cause of the fire is still the subject of speculation at this point.
Bear in mind that the Mayor fired the airport’s general manager a year and a half ago and suggestions at the time were that the airport GM was insufficiently corrupt in airport contracting procedures for the Mayor’s preferences. The US attorney has pursued corruption charges over City of Atlanta contracting this year.
Atlanta Remains a Mess – Stay Away
As I advised yesterday power back on does not mean normal operations.
- Around 50 Delta planes diverted to other airports.
- Flights to Atlanta were simply cancelled
- Crews may have gone illegal, or at least worked beyond schedule, and will need additional rest before flying again
Planes and crew are out of position, not ready to fly. Delta won’t even let unaccompanied minors near Atlanta.
Delta has temporarily embargoed travel for unaccompanied minors through ATL Monday due to the power outage. Unaccompanied minors who already began their travel Sunday may continue.
— Delta (@Delta) December 18, 2017
Hundreds of flights for Monday are cancelled already. More will be cancelled. Delta says their operation will be back to normal by afternoon. That depends on the definition of ‘normal’.
Big Fines May Be in Delta’s Future
“Any flights that exceed the tarmac delay rule will start running up big numbers,” said Gary Leff, a travel expert who writes the View from the Wing blog. He added that compensation given to travelers could be used to lower fines.
There are plenty of traveler reports of long tarmac delays, up to 7 hours, but there will be official data on each flight and individuals can certainly exaggerate their delays when frustrated. Force majeure events in themselves don’t excuse $27,500 fines per passenger for exceeding three hours.
In fact long tarmac delays are generally caused by situations outside of an airline’s control — weather, lack of available gates at the airport — but they’re held responsible nonetheless.
There has to be a safety, security, or or air traffic control reason not to return to the gate or other disembarkation point within 3 hours. Inoperative jetbridges is not such a reason. (Even where a safety issue may exist, the DOT has in the past considered whether the airline has taken sufficient steps to avoid or mitigate the issue.)
On the airport’s Facebook page there were stories of passengers deplaned onto the apron, standing outside the in the rain, to avoid tarmac delay fines.
The Department of Transportation has discretion “to consider the totality of the circumstances” and no doubt Delta will argue against fines, we do not know yet how the current administration — Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was a former board member of Northwest Airlines – will take claims of mitigation. The Obama DOT was fairly unforgiving.