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Atlanta/Hartfield: Into Darkness
Maybe a faux Star Trek movie headline isn't appropriate. But it also has a kernel of truth because we business travelers were mostly unaffected by the absurd and unthinkable 12-hour blackout that shut down Atlanta/Hartsfield, the nation's busiest airport. After all, business travelers were mostly off the road for the year. We could watch it happen like a movie, feel for the abandoned leisure flyers, cheer the good guys (Chick-fil-A) and boo the bad guys (pretty much anyone related to the city, airport and Delta Air Lines). Here is how we covered it at JoeSentMe and on Twitter. Read up from the bottom for the proper context.
12/28/17, 7:30PM ET, THURSDAY
IN CONCLUSION ...
The blackout that hit Atlanta/Hartsfield on Sunday, December 17, has become an embarrassment for the city and the airport. It also further besmirched the tarnished reputation of Delta Air Lines, the endlessly grasping carrier that dominates Atlanta. In case you've forgotten, here's the tick-tock of how the disaster unfolded. Security experts say airports are supposed to have triple redundancy, but it turns out Hartsfield may not have the basics. As USA Today explains, the airport's power comes in from separate lines, but they are routed through a single tunnel and are controlled by a single switch. Worse, the airport had no plan to cope with a complete power failure.
Delta cancelled about 1,500 flights because of the blackout and chief executive Edward Bastian claims the carrier may have lost $50 million in revenue. Naturally, Bastian believes Delta must be made whole. No matter that Delta doesn't care about making you whole when it cancels thousands of flights during a rainstorm or has an IT meltdown. Maybe Bastian should buy some travel insurance, eh? Meanwhile, another big Atlanta company came at the blackout another way. Despite a long-held policy of closing on Sunday due to the founder's religious beliefs, Chick-fil-A opened its doors and fed thousands of flyers abandoned by Delta and the airport. And Hartsfield's largest Southern Tier competitor, Dallas/Fort Worth, wants the world to know it has spent millions to avoid a blackout.
12/17/17, 9PM ET, SUNDAY
A DISASTROUS PRESS 'BRIEFING' IN ATLANTA
Outgoing Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Georgia Power spokespeople gave a press "briefing" and it was a disaster of too little information and way too much spin. On example: The Georgia Power official insisted that the utility doesn't yet know the cause of the fire that caused the ongoing blackout. She insisted, however, that there is a "very redundant" system serving Hartsfield. Yet Reed said fire damaged a single switch that served all systems at the airport. Reed also said he had to decide if he could get a cause to the fire or get the power back on. Yet eight hours later, there is still neither. Thousands of flyers remain in the dark in powerless terminals, dozens of planes remain on the tarmac awaiting disembarcation and there is no estimate for when power will return. And Delta, of course, was nowhere to be found at the briefing.
12/17/17, 5PM ET, SUNDAY
Since the power has been out at the Delta hub at Hartsfield for hours, United and American management are considering cutting power at their hubs, too. Because, you know, that's what United and American do. C'mon, airline folks, you know what I'm talking about ...
12/17/17, 4:15PM ET, SUNDAY
ATLANTA HARTSFIELD GOES DARK
A power failure at Atlanta/Hartsfield is creating chaos at the nation's busiest airport.
+ Southwest Airlines has cancelled all flights into/out of Atlanta for the rest of the day.
+ International incoming flights to Atlanta are being diverted because Customs and Immigration officials are literally powerless, too, and cannot process arrivals.
+ The FAA has imposed a ground stop at Atlanta. It was originally set to expire at 4pm. But it's still in effect because, well, no power.
+ Around 100 planes (loaded with departing and arriving passengers) have been stuck on the tarmac.
+ Power is out at all terminals. The cause? Unknown. Georgia Power, the utility responsible for suplying the airport, hasn't explained. The issue does seem to be at a GP substation, however.
Now some background:
+ The power started going down just before 1 p.m. today.
+ Just this week, Delta chief executive Ed Bastian boasted that the airline was running so well that only weather issues could cause cancellations. Well, how's that working out, Ed?
+ As you may recall, Delta once lied about Georgia Power after a Delta-created power issue grounded the airline at Atlanta for an extended period. That said, this time it is actually a Georgia Power issue.
+ Today is a heavy travel day, of course, but overwhelmingly with leisure travelers. So tonight won't be quite as crowded as it might be, although the flyers affected are less aware of the practicalities and perhaps more vocal and annoying as delays and cancellations drag on.
Tomorrow? It'll be ugly as planes and crews will be out of position at Atlanta. If you're scheduled into or out of Hartsfield, check carefully before going to the airport. Even if you're not touching Hartsfield, double-check on your flight's status. You can't have the nation's largest airport down for hours without impacts rippling across the nation.
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