(Adds details from Atlanta’s main airport)
By Joseph Ax
NEWARK, N.J., Aug 8 (Reuters) - Nyasha Arthur was meant to be at work in Atlanta on Monday. Instead, she found herself stuck at New Jersey’s Newark airport with hundreds of other frustrated passengers after Delta Air Lines Inc computer systems were hit by a power outage.
“This is ridiculous,” said the 39-year-old AT&T employee, who had to use a vacation day after being stranded at Newark Liberty International Airport.
“I don’t understand what is going on here. It’s just a mess,” she said as she stood in a long queue at Delta’s check-in counter.
The power outage struck Delta’s computers around 2:30 a.m. EDT (0630 GMT), forcing the cancellation of about 365 flights. The airline said flights began taking off again at about 8:40 a.m. EDT (1240 GMT).
Arthur complained about a lack of agents at the counter, where only three of more than a dozen desks were open. She flies between Atlanta and Newark a few times a year, and said she might have to reconsider her next visit after Monday’s delays.
Many travelers vented their anger on social media, making #Delta a top trending topic. Delta used its Twitter account to reply directly to many of those who complained.
After one traveler thanked the airline for helping him and his family get home, Delta tweeted that his message was greatly appreciated. “It’s been a brutal start this morning,” it added.
Gloria Ojo, a buyer for a fashion company, was on her way to Montreal, Canada for business via New York City.
At the airport, she was told flight 3716 from Baltimore-Washington International Airport was delayed for 20 minutes. An hour later she learned it had been canceled. The 28-year-old said she had not heard anything from Delta since then.
“Utter confusion across the board,” Ojo wrote in an online message. “I won’t be flying with them again unless if I get an amazing voucher that can take me somewhere grand.”
At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta’s largest hub, the baggage claim area was eerily empty around 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) with virtually no flights arriving.
Hundreds of people flying to Guatemala for a religious mission filled the waiting area, with several saying they had no idea if their flight would take off on time.
In Minneapolis, Delta employees offered snacks and drinks to passengers whose flights were grounded.
A similar scene unfolded in Newark, where apologetic airline workers pushed carts loaded with bags of chips and bottled water along a queue of passengers that snaked through Terminal B.
Near the end of the line, Daniel and Laura Merza and their two children still hoped to make it to Tampa, Florida, for a vacation. They were booked to fly via Detroit, but Laura Merza said she thought she saw her flight switched to Atlanta online before Delta’s website stopped working for her.
Both parents said the kids would find it tough if they ended up being stuck in Newark all day.
“They’re going to be bored,” Daniel Merza said, to which his wife replied, “They’ll fight.”
Other passengers were surprisingly sanguine. Lynn Christensen, 53, and Karen Weber, 54, were returning to Minneapolis from Newark where they saw Weber’s son take his vows with the Franciscan friars.
“We’re not trying to go to a meeting or anything,” Weber said.
Christensen said she generally flies Delta, partly out of loyalty. Her father spent 25 years working for Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta in 2008.
“A system failure can happen to United, American, Spirit or Frontier,” she said. “It can happen to anybody.” (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Arshad Mohammed in Minneapolis and Tami Chappell in Atlanta; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Richard Chang)