(Reuters) – Flights were delayed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Sunday after a partial power outage, leaving passengers at the world’s busiest airport stranded in dimly lit terminals or in aircraft idling on tarmacs.
The partial shutdown at the start of one of the busiest travel weeks of the year forced the Federal Aviation Administration to hold back flights bound for Atlanta. Departures were delayed as well because equipment inside terminals was inoperative, the agency said, although the FAA flight control tower was operating normally.
The cause of the outage, which occurred just after 1 p.m. (1800 GMT), was not immediately known, the airport said in a statement. It was working with Georgia Power to identify the problem and fix it. The utility had crews at the airport, spokesman John Kraft said.
Photos posted on social media showed passengers sitting in partial darkness in one crowded terminal.
“Stuck on a plane at Atlanta Airport as the power is out there … bedlam inside and boredom out here!” Twitter user Jack Harris wrote.
Delta Air Lines said on Twitter it was working to allow customers to deplane as quickly as possible, with only a limited number of open gates available.
In response to a question from a customer, the Atlanta-based carrier said it expected service to be restored by Sunday night, although it cautioned that the airport had yet not identified the cause.
A Delta pilot told passengers a construction crew cut a power line, causing the outage, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Airport and Delta officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the report.
Departure delays at Hartsfield were averaging about an hour and 40 minutes on Sunday afternoon, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service.
International flights to Hartsfield were diverted to other Atlanta-area airports, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said on Twitter.
Southwest Airlines canceled all flights into and out of the airport for the rest of the day.
“We know that today has been challenging to all of our customers traveling in and out of Atlanta, and we regret your disappointment,” the low-cost carrier said in a statement.
Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and Frank McGurty in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Peter Cooney