Many stranded travelers slept in the atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Sunday night, after a massive power outage forced airlines to cancel more than 1,100 flights and created a logistical nightmare during the already-busy holiday travel season. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

How the airport debacle unfolded

For hours, passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were kept literally and figuratively in the dark about what was happening, as lights were out, smoke wafted through concourses and planes were stuck on the tarmac. Here’s how events unfolded.

Sunday, Dec. 17

12:38 p.m. - Georgia Power is alerted to “multiple faults” on its network at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

1:32 p.m. - The airport, on Twitter, acknowledges a power outage affecting several areas.

2:14 p.m. - Georgia Power on Twitter says it has crews at the airport to address an issue.

2:30 p.m. - Firefighters contain a blaze in an airport substation, although it will be hours before the airport or Georgia Power acknowledge a fire.

2:34 p.m. - Delta says flight disruptions are expected as a result of the outage.

3:10 p.m. - U.S. Customs and Border Protection says international arriving flights are being diverted to other airports.

3:28 p.m. - FAA announces a ground stop for flights into the airport. It also says departures are delayed because airport equipment in the terminals is not working.

4:00 p.m. - The airport issues its first news release. It says a power shortage occurred shortly after 1 p.m., and that the airport was working with Georgia Power to identify the cause and address the problem.

4:30 p.m. - Georgia Power employees enter the fire area to assess damage. Passengers still haven’t been told of the blaze.

4:42 p.m. - Southwest Airlines says it is cancelling all remaining Sunday operations.

5:08 p.m. - Delta posts that flight cancellations and disruptions are expected.

6:30 p.m. - Georgia Power, in a news release, acknowledges a fire, which it says caused extensive damage to an underground facility.”The fire was safely extinguished by fire crews before Georgia Power could enter the area to assess damages and begin repairs…,” the release says.

7:00 p.m. - The airport issues its second news release, repeating what Georgia Power had said about the fire.

7:32 p.m. - The airport announces power is back on for Concourse F but provides no further information. F is in the international terminal, not the domestic terminal where most people are stranded.

7:57 p.m. - MARTA says its service at the airport is running and it would supply additional shuttles if needed.

8:28 p.m. - Delta posts that it is cancelling the rest of its Sunday flights.

8:36 p.m. - The airport recommends passengers consider taking a MARTA train to downtown or Midtown for a hotel.

8:55 p.m. — Mayor Kasim Reed begins a news conference with other city and Georgia Power officials.

9:45 p.m. - Delta announces it is cancelling hundreds of Monday flights

9:57 p.m. - The city announces it has mobilized the Georgia International Convention Center and will provide shuttle services for anyone who needs a place to stay for the night. But no evacuation is ordered.

10:12 p.m. - Reed tweets that all passengers have been safely deplaned. Some had been stuck on planes since shortly after the incident began.

11:16 p.m. - Lights come back on in the terminals, atrium and concourses T, A & B.

11:45 p.m. - Power is restored for all “essential activities.”

Monday, Dec. 18

12:05 a.m. - In a news release, Georgia Power says a switchgear in an underground electrical facility could have failed and started a fire, also damaging switches and cable for the airport’s backup power source. The release goes on to say that crews responding to the fire faced hazardous fumes and smoke, which had had to be cleared before power could be restored.

12:06 a.m. - The airport announces that all power has been restored, 5,000+ meals are being delivered to passengers, and trains would be operational soon.

1:13 a.m. - The airport says food and water are being delivered to passengers.

3:30 a.m. - The airport posts on Twitter that TSA checkpoints are open.

5:18 a.m. - The airport announces that “concessionaires opening; TSA security lines open. Passengers urged to check airlines for flight info”

8:50 a.m. - FAA says air traffic control facilities are fully operational and staffed and it was prioritizing departures to help keep flights moving.

10:15 a.m. - The plane train is up and running.

11:47 a.m. - FAA says that operations are expected to be back to normal by midday. That does not apply to previously canceled flights.

3:49 p.m. - Georgia Powers’ CEO apologizes for the disruption caused by the outage.

Related Stories