Georgia Power to provide back-up power generators to Hartsfield-Jackson

The move comes three years after a massive blackout at the world’s busiest airport

Nearly three years after a massive blackout at Hartsfield-Jackson International disrupted travel plans around the world, Georgia Power has agreed to add, at no cost to the city of Atlanta, generators that will provide back-up power.

The 11-hour power outage at the world’s busiest airport in December 2017 became national news after it affected tens of thousands of travelers. Hoping to avoid any similar situation in the future, the airport and the city of Atlanta planned to spend $130 million to have about 20 massive generators installed.

But now, as a result of a settlement relating to claims from the power outage, Georgia Power will install generators that the airport will have on standby. Though it will still have some cost associated with emergency power, the airport will save nearly $100 million in capital expense, according to Hartsfield-Jackson.

The airport will not own the generators. It also will not have to lease them.

Georgia Power will provide the generators for all terminals and concourses “at no additional cost to the city,” which owns the airport, according to a resolution approved by the Atlanta city council transportation committee this week.

Georgia Power and Atlanta Airlines Terminal Co., an airline cooperative responsible for operations and maintenance of infrastructure on behalf of Delta and other carriers, are finalizing a long-term agreement and will partner to operate and maintain the generators. AATC will pay for the backup power generation services.

The settlement that relieves the airport from having to buy the new generators comes three years after Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said he planned to seek compensation for the airline’s lost revenue.

Delta, which is the biggest tenant at Hartsfield-Jackson and approves and helps fund airport projects, said the power outage cost the airline $40 million.

Bastian said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution days after the power outage that he found it “shocking” that it took nearly 12 hours to get the power back on.

“We will certainly be seeking the opportunity to have a conversation, and then seek reimbursement," Bastian said at the time. "I don’t know whose responsibility it is between the airport and Georgia Power, but we’re going to have conversations with both of them.”

However, because Delta is the dominant carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson, it is a key member of the AATC, which is responsible for maintenance, including electrical distribution.

AATC said this week that expanding its partnership with Georgia Power will “provide the best and most resilient system of back-up power generation” for the airport.

Since 2017, the airport has installed back-up generators on Concourses E and F, but it was expected to take up to three years for the full rollout of generators across the entire airport.

Atlanta airport officials now say once an agreement is finalized and installation begins, it will take two years to phase the new generators into operation. Most of the new generators will be 1-3 megawatts.