Thousands of travelers on Delta Airlines’ inbound and outbound flights in Little Rock, Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) and Fort Smith faced uncertainty and were left scrambling to find other travel options as a power outage at the nation’s second largest airline impacted Monday morning travel across the U.S.
According to Delta officials, the Atlanta-based airline canceled approximately 300 flights by 10 a.m. and delayed hundreds more because of a power outage impacting Delta operations system-wide. By mid-morning Monday, Delta was only operating 800 of its nearly 6,000 scheduled flights.
“While systems are improving and flights are resuming, delays and cancellations continue,” Delta said in a news bulletin on its website. “Customers heading to the airport should expect delays and cancellations. While inquiries are high and wait times are long, our customer service agents are doing everything they can to assist.”
Historically, just under 30% of travelers in and out of Little Rock are with Delta, just under 10% at XNA are on Delta, and around 35% in and out of Fort Smith use Delta.
The flight schedule at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport showed nearly all Delta arrivals and departures had been delayed or cancelled through Monday afternoon. According to the Delta flight schedule, only the three flights that left Little Rock before the system-wide outage had spread across the U.S., delaying all arrivals and departures into Arkansas’ three largest airports.
Delta Flight 1481 and 5283, which left Little Rock at 5:25 a.m. and 5:59 a.m., landed at the Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Detroit Metropolitan airports at 9:02 a.m. and 7:05 a.m., respectively, according to the airline’s flight tracker. A later Delta commuter from Little Rock, Flight 1614, also left the state airport at 7:08 a.m. and landed at Atlanta’s international and regional airline hub just before 10 a.m.
However, Flight 1931 for Atlanta, which was scheduled to leave at 9:14 a.m., was the first of three other Delta departures from the Little Rock airport that were either delayed by mid-morning. Afternoon Flight 1861, which was scheduled to leave for Atlanta at 3:10 p.m., has since been cancelled.
At the Delta arrival gate in Little Rock, no flights are scheduled to land at the local airport until Monday evening, flight data shows. The earliest Delta flight to arrive today at the state’s largest airport is scheduled land at the Little Rock airport from Atlanta at 6:23 p.m. Three other Delta flights, two to Atlanta and Detroit, are scheduled to land the Little Rock airport after 8:30 p.m.
“The majority of the Little Rock Delta flights for today have been delayed,” said Clinton National Airport Spokesman Shane Carter. “We have had two cancellations out of 14 scheduled flights.”
Carter said passengers booked on a flight for Monday and Tuesday should check Delta’s website for updated departure times before arriving at the airport. The airline is allowing passengers to make a one-time change to their ticket without being charged a fee.
“Delta is working extremely hard to accommodate passengers,” said Carter, director of public affairs and governmental relations at the Little Rock airport. “Here in Little Rock, extra airline employees have been brought in to keep passengers updated, make travel changes and provide snacks to those impacted.”
At the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, two of three scheduled morning departures eventually left, according to XNA Director Kelly Johnson. She said the third flight did not leave because the crew had “timed out.” She said Delta worked to either book travelers with other airlines, schedule them for a later flight, give refunds or other accommodations. She said it was “a little crazy” in the early morning, but had calmed down by noon. However, the ripple effect will create issues for several days.
“It (Delta’s airline schedule) probably won’t be normal for probably two or three days,” Johnson said.
According to a Delta company spokesperson, the airline first notified passengers and local airports across the U.S. around 5 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) that the airline had experienced a computer outage affecting most U.S. flights scheduled for this morning. At the time, a number of early morning flights across the country were already en route, but all flights awaiting departure were delayed and many later cancelled.
Later in the morning, Delta officials confirmed that the power outage at the airline’s Atlanta headquarters had begun at 2:30 a.m. (EST), and had impacted company computer systems and operations globally, resulting in large scale flight delays in the U.S. and worldwide.
“We are aware that flight status systems, including airport screens, are incorrectly showing flights on time,” Delta posted on its website at 6:55 a.m. “We apologize to customers who are affected by this issue, and our teams are working to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.”
By 11 a.m. Monday, Delta officials said some of its system were improving and a limited number of flights had been rescheduled. However, local Delta airline agents across the U.S. were still having problems with their systems by midday and customers were experiencing long wait times and backups at airport terminals across the U.S., including Little Rock, NWA and Fort Smith.
For those seeking information online, there was also some lag time in the display of accurate flight status at delta.com, the Fly Delta App and from Delta representatives on the phone and in airport.