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Airport Power Outage

'We couldn't go to the bathroom': Student recounts being stuck on a plane in Atlanta

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Imagine coming home from on a nine hour flight for the holidays only to be stuck in an airplane for seven hours with minimal food, water and even limited access to the bathroom.

That's what Furman University student Nathaniel DeSantis experienced Sunday after Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport lost power for 11 hours.

"We get on the tarmac and the pilot gets on and he's like 'There are some issues with the power in Atlanta, should be another 45 minutes, maybe an hour,'" DeSantis told me in an interview.

An hour, huh? Try seven.

Seven full hours stuck on a metal tube full of people who had already been in the air for more than nine. To make matters worse, food and water ran low.

"They started running out of essentials, so they were out of toilet paper, they were out of paper towels," said DeSantis. "The bathrooms were almost out of water, which at that point meant we couldn't go to the bathroom if anyone had to go."

As many as 92 planes went through a similar experience, according to some reports. The lack of power meant flights coming into Atlanta's terminals were unable to properly de-plane passengers. Passengers posted videos and snapshots of planes stuck on the runways, unable to move. Those who were indoors were stuck in the dark for hours.

Despite all the confusion, DeSantis said he and his fellow passengers made the best of it. The plane had USB plugs, allowing them to keep their devices charged.

"I spent a lot of time just watching Netflix," said DeSantis. "So I got to catch up with my shows, at least."

Those stuck inside the terminals slept on chairs, benches, and even their luggage and baggage carousels. The city shuttled some to a convention center to wait it out, while Chic-Fil-A provided some food. It was extremely inconvenient, but passengers didn't report any major problems.

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By the time he was through customs and out of the airport, DeSantis's family had to head back to their home in Greenville, South Carolina, requiring him to take a three hour Uber ride to get back home. He ended the chaotic situation on a happier note Monday morning, when his family got him some long-awaited donuts he wasn't able to get back in Brussels.

All told, more than 1,180 flights were canceled Sunday, with more than 30,000 people affected. Delays and cancellations continued into Monday, but officials said they hoped to have everything back to normal by Monday afternoon.

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