Snow caused long security lines, cancellations at Hartsfield-Jackson

Jan 17, 2018
Security lines wrapped through the atrium and around the baggage areas and wait times were more than two hours long at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday afternoon in the wake of a snowstorm due to a shortage of TSA screeners.BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

The world’s busiest airport took a hit from the snowstorm that chilled Atlanta this week, with icy conditions causing flight cancellations, delays and hours-long security lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International on Wednesday.

Security wait times were more than two hours long at the airport on Wednesday afternoon according to Delta Air Lines, due to limited Transportation Security Administration staffing.

The long security wait times at the Atlanta airport came in the wake of a snowstorm that led to flight cancellations starting Tuesday evening. When passengers flooded back into the terminal to catch flights on Wednesday, security lines backed up and delays persisted.

On Thursday, some flight cancellations will continue.

Southwest Airlines has already canceled at least 58 departures from Atlanta. Dallas-based Southwest is the second-largest carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson, behind Delta.

Atlanta-based Delta expects its operations to recover, but some flight cancellations will persist in the morning. By Wednesday afternoon, the airline had canceled about 15 flights scheduled for Thursday.

Southwest is allowing passengers with flights scheduled in Atlanta, New Orleans and Raleigh-Durham through Thursday to rebook without paying an extra charge.

Delta is also allowing passengers with flights booked through Thursday in Atlanta and dozens of other Southeast cities to change their travel plans to avoid potential flight disruptions without paying certain change fees.

Passengers planning to fly should check their flight status on their airline’s website or app and sign up for notifications if possible.

Due to the long security lines Wednesday, Delta encouraged passengers to get to the airport three hours before their departure time to allow extra time to get through security.

The main security checkpoint was open in the domestic terminal, but TSA had closed the North and South security checkpoints.

“Due to dangerous road conditions, traffic and public transportation delays and school closures, a number of employees were not able to come to work or arrived when they were able to do so safely, as was the case for most Atlanta residents,” TSA said in a written statement.

TSA said it “made the decision early this morning to close T-North and South checkpoints and consolidate operations at the main checkpoint to more efficiently screen passengers with available resources.”

In addition to the long security lines, more than 500 flights were canceled Wednesday at the Atlanta airport by Delta, Southwest and other airlines, according to data on FlightAware.com. The Atlanta airport typically handles close to 2,500 flights a day.

Hartsfield-Jackson got more than 1.5 inches of snow, and some of the airport’s runways were closed early Wednesday morning, according to Delta Air Lines.

Delta canceled a total of about 900 flights Tuesday and Wednesday.

Delta brought in deicing workers from its Minneapolis hub to help deice planes at the Atlanta airport. Deicing can require more time and cause delays, contributing to delays.

Flights arriving in Atlanta were being delayed an average of more than two hours due to snow and ice Wednesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. A ground stop was also affected flights Wednesday afternoon.