Between the potential strikes, staffing shortages and mass flight cancellations, the passenger experience in commercial aviation has never been more chaotic. Earlier this year, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was on the verge of running out of jet fuel. The airport serving the Texas state capital has now had to endure a three-hour power outage earlier today.
The outage began at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport early Wednesday morning after 4:30 a.m. The critical issue stemmed from underground equipment malfunctioning, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The outage necessitated a ground stop halting all incoming and departing flights at 5 a.m. The airport also closed the roads to its terminal to prevent the situation from worsening with more passengers entering the building.
A passenger described his experience inside the terminal to the Austin American-Statesman:
“There were thousands of people in the pitch black. You had a couple of battery-powered blue signs and every once in a while folks that worked in the terminal would come through with a flashlight. But, other than that, it was just quiet with alarms going off in the distance.”
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) couldn’t screen passengers without an internet connection and those in line waited indefinitely. Those who already passed through a TSA checkpoint were stranded there. Restaurants within the terminal gave out free food to people struck in the unfortunate predicament. However, the airport wasn’t completely out of power. The terminal has emergency generators that had to be turned on manually.
Airport spokesperson Sam Haynes said:
“The systems (run by the generators) include ingress and egress lighting to help staff and passengers see through the dark, fire detection and alarm, the overhead PA system and security functions. Because this power failure impacted the entire airport campus, the generators had to be manually turned on, which accounts for the time between the lights going out and the auxiliary lights coming back on.”
The repair crew fixed the issue and restored power at 8 a.m. with the ground stop lifting and roads reopening almost two hours later. According to FlightAware, 90 flights in or out of Austin-Bergstrom were canceled with an additional 110 flights delayed. Flight schedules at the airport aren’t expected to return to normal until tomorrow.