As millions of Americans are expected to travel this Labor Day weekend, a watchdog report is shedding light on power outages at U.S. commercial airports and the steps being taken to prevent them from happening.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) findings say 24 commercial service airports reported experiencing 321 total electrical power outages lasting five minutes or longer from 2015 through 2022.
Eleven of the airports reported having six or more outages over this timeframe.
The outages disrupted a range of services for passengers.
“The most common activity cited were the baggage handling and concessions,” said Heather Krause, a Director for GAO’s Physical Infrastructure team. “But there were instances where gate and boarding, as well as check-in, communications, and flight delays and cancelations, were impacted as well.”
Passengers at the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International, experienced the consequences of a power outage firsthand in December 2017.
That outage lasted nearly 12 hours, and the GAO report said it led to roughly 1,200 flight cancelations and cost an airline $50 million.
The report said airports and the federal government are taking steps to improve electrical systems to prevent these kinds of outages.
In some cases that includes installing equipment to generate additional backup power and making improvements to the electrical infrastructure.
The report also points out that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is assisting these airports and has grant programs for infrastructure upgrades.
“Ensuring the resilience of airports’ electrical power systems is a shared responsibility between FAA and the airports,” said Krause. “Both are taking steps to improve resilience.”