Dozens of travelers settled into chairs and spread out on the floor of the domestic terminal atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Friday night, preparing to wait hours or spend the night until they could catch flights out.
Delta and Southwest cancelled hundreds of flights due to the snowstorm hitting Atlanta. Additional flights to Fort Lauderdale were cancelled in the wake of the shooting Friday at the airport there.
Still, on Friday night, a number of flights continued to arrive and depart at Hartsfield-Jackson.
But airlines thinned out their flight schedules, cancelling some flights to allow extra time to de-ice each plane before taking off.
“I was here in Atlanta this week, and I was trying to go home,” said traveler John Norman from Houston, whose Friday afternoon flight was cancelled.
“It was the perfect storm, if you will, with the weather changing and everything associated with it,” Norman said. On the carpeted floor on the upper level of the terminal atrium, Norman said he “found a place to relax, so that has been good.”
Shiraine Wilson, who was planning to fly from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., found after arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson at around 6:30 p.m. that her flight was cancelled. She was rescheduled to fly out Saturday.
With no snow in sight yet and rain falling in Atlanta early Friday evening, Wilson said: “There’s barely anything going on outside,” yet the flight was still cancelled. “We’re just frustrated that we can’t leave today.”
Some travelers arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson on Friday night for flights departing Saturday, because they didn’t want to risk missing flights due to treacherous roads.
“I worried about the traffic because it’s snowing, so I came very early,” said traveler Cen Chen, a student at Georgia State University who was at the airport Friday evening and planned to fly to Beijing Saturday morning.
In the airport’s domestic terminal atrium, “it’s very hard to find a place to sit,” Chen said. His plans were to surf the Internet, watch videos and otherwise kill time until his flight.
Brooke Sands of Fort Lauderdale was returning home after a trip to Boston when she got stuck during a layover in Atlanta. She learned about the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport before arriving in Atlanta and was told that the flight to Fort Lauderdale she planned to take was cancelled.
After arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sands anticipated waiting until a departure around 8 a.m. Saturday morning, for a flight into West Palm Beach instead of Fort Lauderdale.
Sitting on the floor of the terminal, Sands said, “It’s been crazy because I don’t know what to do with myself.” With her luggage next to her, she said: “I just don’t feel comfortable falling asleep.”
Traveler Stu McIntire was headed from Boston to Jackson, Miss., where he grew up, to attend a funeral for an old friend, and had a connection in Atlanta.
But he said just before getting to Jackson, his flight was diverted due to weather and redirected to Montgomery. But the plane was not able to land at Montgomery either, and ended up returning to Atlanta.
Upon arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson, he said he found airport hotels were booked and he was not able to get his luggage, which had been checked through to Jackson. McIntire also said he received conflicting information from the airline, adding: “Probably nights like this are so complicated and confusing.” He decided to try to fly standby Saturday morning.
“A lot of people have been freaking out. Just losing it. Blaming it on the airlines,” McIntire said. In the customer service line, “there were people screaming” at customer service agents, McIntire said.
“It’s weather. What are you going to do?” McIntire said. “This is inevitable in the winter. It just happens sometimes.”