Will Atlanta's big airport outage delay your holiday travel?



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Managing Editor

Myles Ma is a health care expert & personal finance writer for Policygenius. He edits the Easy Money newsletter.

Published December 18, 2017|2 min read

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A power outage at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Sunday could have consequences for travelers around the country. A local utility company had restored power as of midnight, but the outage led airlines to cancel hundreds of flights at the busiest airport in the world. Atlanta International is a major hub for Delta, which canceled nearly 1,000 flights Sunday, plus another 400 Monday.

If you're flying through Atlanta

Delta is offering refunds for passengers whose flights were canceled or delayed more than 90 minutes. The airline is also waiving the ticket change fee for anyone scheduled to fly to, from or through Atlanta from Sunday through Tuesday. The fee is typically $200 for travel within the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and up to $500 elsewhere. Passengers may still have to pay a fare difference if the rescheduled flight is after Friday.

Other airlines have made similar offers. Check your airline website if you've been affected.

What if you're not flying through Atlanta?

Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world by air traffic, according to statistics from Airports Council International. As such, the cancellations and delays have already affected other airports, said Sarah Schlichter, senior editor of SmarterTravel. For instance, if a plane is grounded in Atlanta, any subsequent flights it was set to make will likely suffer delays.

"We recommend checking your flight status early and often if you're flying in the next day or two," Schlichter said.

Contact your airline to see if your itinerary is affected, too, Schlichter said. This way you can try to get on another flight.

Should you worry about holiday travel?

Most airlines, including Delta, are only allowing changes for flights through Tuesday, so it doesn't seem like they expect flights closer to Christmas to be affected, Schlichter said. (On its website, Delta is currently citing delays from Dec. 17 through Dec. 19.)

However, Schlichter recommended coming to the airport earlier than usual during the holiday season in case of crowds or unexpected delays. She also suggested signing up for flight status delays from your airline. After all, holiday travel is tricky even without power outages.

What to do if your travel plans get messed up

Power outages are just one of the things that can mess up your travel schedule. Weather, security and mechanical failures also affect flight times. But passengers have certain rights if things go awry.

For example, airlines have to provide working bathrooms and medical attention to passengers if a plane gets stuck on the tarmac. If the tarmac delay runs at least two hours, they also have to provide food and water.

Want to know more about your rights as an air passenger? We've rounded them up here to help all holiday travelers.

Images: Birute