Lawmakers to MSP Airport: Prove you're ready for Atlanta-like crisis

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Two Minnesota lawmakers are asking the Metropolitan Airports Commission to disclose its emergency response and contingency plans in the event Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were to sustain a total power loss like the outage that crippled Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport over the weekend. 

The Atlanta airport power outage lasted nearly 11 hours Sunday. Officials said the outage was caused by a fire that damaged electrical equipment. Atlanta is the nation’s busiest airport and hundreds of flights were canceled. The travel slowdowns continued early Monday as airlines tried to deal with a huge backlog of passengers. 

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for all flights into Hartsfield-Jackson after the power outage began around 1 p.m. Sunday. Delta Air Lines said it canceled about 900 Delta and Delta Connection flights Sunday. Delta announced Sunday night that another 300 flights were canceled Monday, as well.

On Monday, Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), chair of the Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee, and Rep. Regina Barr (R-Inver Grove Heights) sent the following letter to MAC:

On Sunday, a fire in an underground electrical facility caused Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, the world’s busiest airport, to completely lose power. Hundreds of flights were canceled and thousands of passengers were stranded without power for more than twelve hours. 

Media reports suggest a stunning lack of a preparedness for such an event: restaurants were closed and vending machines were not functioning; elevators, escalators, and moving walkways were not working leaving elderly and disabled passengers stranded; and boarding systems were not functioning limiting the ability of passengers to change planes or find other accommodations. 

These issues were all compounded by a severe lack of communication from authorities to stranded passengers. This did nothing but further upset passengers, making them believe there were no plans and no one was in charge. The timing could not be worse as very few flights over the next week have space due to the busy holiday travel season. 

As members of the Minnesota House Transportation committee, we are requesting information on current emergency procedures, and what contingency plans are in place to prevent a crisis in the future. It is our hope that MSP already has plans in place in the event of a similar crisis, and that you will consider reviewing and updating policies and preparedness measures in light of the recent events in Atlanta. We recognize that you may not be able to discuss full details due to classification or security concerns, but urge you to share what you can to reassure the public.

Thank you for all you do on behalf of the millions of Minnesotans who travel through MSP Airport each year. We look forward to your reply.