The U.S.’s Busiest Airport Just Cancelled 87% of Today’s Flights

Skift Take

Atlanta has tried to get ahead of the game by canceling flights, but it won’t be of much comfort to the tens of thousands of stranded passengers stuck in Atlanta and those who were supposed to transit through the Delta hub today.

— Jason Clampet

With airlines canceling thousands of Atlanta flights scheduled for Wednesday to avoid the winter storm, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is set to begin operating a severely reduced schedule.

Dozens of passengers slept over in the terminal atrium Tuesday night after their flights were canceled, and many Atlanta travelers are likely to wait at least another day before they can depart.

Atlanta airport officials say some 2,200 flights scheduled for Wednesday have been canceled, and only about 300 flights are expected to operate. That’s the most aggressive round of flight cancellations at the Atlanta airport in memory, said Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie.

Because the majority of flights have been canceled, airport and airline officials cautioned travelers to check with their airline on their flight status before heading out on treacherous roads to the airport.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines canceled more than 1,500 flights scheduled for Wednesday due to the storm hitting Atlanta and the Southeast.

Southwest is suspending most, if not all, of its more than 300 flights in and out of Atlanta for Wednesday.

McCranie has said the airport will remain “open and fully operational this week” and is stocked with de-icing supplies.

The Atlanta airport has 100,000 gallons of de-icing fluid, 50,000 pounds of de-icing pellets and 50,000 pounds of a salt/sand mixture to handle storm conditions, McCranie said. Hartsfield-Jackson have essential personnel working 12-hour shifts and sleeping at the airport on cots and inflatable mattresses.

Among the passengers who spent the night in the terminal atrium were retirees Mary Pike and husband Bob, along with sister Kathy Frederick and her husband Jack, who were headed from Wisconsin to their condo on the South Carolina coast when they got waylaid in Atlanta by the storm Tuesday night.

Their flight to Charleston was canceled, and, Jack Frederick said, “We figure it’s just easier to stay here [at the airport] than get a hotel. Plus it’ll make a good story.”

But it was difficult to sleep in the terminal atrium, Mary Pike said.

“It was just noisy,” with cleaning crews operating through the night, Pike said. Yet with no flight available for Pike and her family Wednesday, “it sounds like we’ll be here” at the airport until Thursday, she said.

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