Tampa International Airport hasn’t suffered an Atlanta-style loss of power, but it is prepared for one


TAMPA — Tampa International Airport sees about one-fifth as many passengers as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, but a major power outage here could cause disruptions to air travel, too.

That said, TIA has taken steps to create "redundancy after redundancy" to mitigate the impact of an Atlanta-style power loss as much as possible, airport spokeswoman Janet Scherberger said Monday.

In Atlanta, more than 1,000 flights were grounded Sunday after a fire in an underground electrical facility knocked out power to the world’s busiest airport.

In Tampa, the airport has diesel-powered generators for each of its airsides, as well as for the main terminal, parking garages and airfield itself. But on Monday, even airport long-timers couldn’t recall ever having to turn on the generators during a major power outage.

At the airsides, each generator can power up to three airplane boarding bridges at a time. That would allow passengers to get on or off planes even in a power outage.

"People could get on the planes — if their bags had already been processed," Scherberger said.

That’s because the generators are designed to provide power for safety and operational systems only.

Other functions like air-conditioning, ticket counters and baggage handling could be kept going because the airport is served by three different Tampa Electric substations — thanks to a $3 million investment Tampa International made about 10 years ago.

"If you lose one, you can switch over to a second one," Scherberger said. The newest substation was installed during the construction of the airport’s soon-to-open rental car facility as part of its $2.3 billion expansion.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself

On Monday, planes left and arrived with just a handful of cancelled flights related to Atlanta’s problems.

But it only took one to wreck a Tampa couple’s honeymoon.

Garrett and Lane Palmisano got married at Davis Islands Garden Club on Saturday and were supposed to leave Tampa International on Monday on a 5:20 a.m. Delta flight to Atlanta. From there, they were to fly Delta to St. Lucia for a five-day honeymoon at a Sandals resort. But their flight from Tampa was cancelled.

The couple spent five hours on hold with Delta’s customer service line Sunday night, falling asleep with the phone beside them. A human never picked up, and their Facebook and Twitter messages went unanswered. So they decided to show up at Tampa International first thing Monday morning to talk to someone.

It turned out the next flight to St. Lucia wasn’t until Friday. At 7 a.m. Monday, they were sitting side-by-side and bleary-eyed near the Delta counter, waiting for Garrett’s mother to pick them up. The next step was to reach someone at Sandals to find out what the company could do for them.

"It’s not on us," said Garrett, who turned 33 Monday. "Everybody in the world knows the busiest airport in the world was shut down."

They expected rebooking a trip for Friday to be tough. They’d already taken time off work — Garrett is a sales manager and Lane, 31, is a marketing specialist. His mother had already flown from New Orleans to Tampa to dog-sit the couple’s pugs, Brees and Mardi.

"We’re open to going somewhere else," he said.

"Anywhere," Lane added, then sighed.

By late Monday afternoon, they had their answer.


Their new honeymoon destination, replanned through Sandals, entailed traveling through Charlotte, Garrett said, with the couple’s departure delayed by only one day and at no additional cost.

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times