At 5:54 p.m. yesterday evening, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) completed work to repair the primary power line for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). All roadwork associated with power system repairs was completed at that time as well.
LADWP crews worked all day Thursday to install a new underground power cable, with primary underground work locations at Sepulveda Boulevard at Century Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard at 98th Street. As of this morning, LAX has access to both its primary and backup power feeds.
LAWA recognizes the impact disruptions of this magnitude have on our guests, employees, and stakeholders. We empathize with those affected and strive every day to operate the world’s fourth-busiest airport safely and reliably. We are deeply appreciative for those guests who were helpful to others, the airport and LADWP employees who were part of responding to and making repairs, and those employees who provided information, water, comfort and assistance to our guests. Amidst the frustration that comes with a disruption of this nature, many people were calm and assisted others.
The following is a preliminary review of the operations during the event as well as background on investments and programs currently underway to improve power reliability.
Power Disruption – Wednesday, June 5
The primary LADWP power line that feeds LAX failed around 6:29 p.m. Wednesday due to an underground cable failure near Sepulveda and 98th Street, just east of LAX, resulting in the loss of power to the entire Central Terminal Area (CTA). Automatic transfer switches moved Terminals 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and Tom Bradley International to backup feeds within minutes. These six terminals operated normally while power to Terminals 1, 7 and 8, parking structures 1 and 7, and some CTA traffic signals had to be switched manually to full LADWP backup power, which occurred by 10 p.m.
No passengers or airport employees were injured, and the vast majority of flights to and from LAX continued operating during the power disruption.
Guest Services staff were deployed, and water, blankets, snacks and personal hygiene kits were distributed to passengers in affected terminals during the power disruption. LAX operations staff along with Los Angeles Airport Police Department (LAXPD) officers provided guidance and information to crowds. About half the concessions in Terminal 7 remained open to serve guests during the flight delays. After the power disruption, all concessions in Terminal 1 were closed and remained closed due to all remaining Southwest flights being cancelled for the night.
LAXPD officers also played a major support role as they deployed immediately to assist with crowd control, traffic management and wayfinding. Dozens of additional officers and K-9 units also deployed to each terminal to ensure safety during the power disruption. Traffic officers diverted and spread out motorists to mitigate congestion within the CTA and on surrounding streets. At its worst point, traffic extended to Lincoln on Sepulveda, Airport on Century and just beyond the 105, south of the Sepulveda tunnel. Upon restoration of power, traffic quickly returned to normal Wednesday night levels.
During the approximately three-and-a-half-hour power disruption in Terminals 1, 7 and 8, LAX emergency power generators kept emergency lights and safety systems fully functional. The FAA control tower, airfield and other critical infrastructure continued working at all times.
Terminal 1 Re-Screening – Thursday, June 6
An airline granted passengers whose flights were cancelled Wednesday night access to their checked bags, resulting in the need to rescreen people in Terminal 1 when operations opened on Thursday morning.
LAXPD cleared the terminal of all people at 5:47 a.m., with police K-9s sweeping the building at 6:21 a.m. to secure the building and verify the terminal building was cleared of any prohibited items. Passenger re-screening began at 6:40 a.m. and the re-screening of all 1,500 people took less than two hours to complete.
The power disruption on Wednesday night directly resulted in 21 flight cancellations and nine aircraft diversions to other airports. On Thursday, the passenger re-screening of Terminal 1 resulted in 14 flight cancellations and four aircraft diversions to other airports. In total, the number of flights impacted by the two events were 1 percent of the estimated 4,000 scheduled flights that took place over the two days.
Some passengers experienced longer hold times onboard arriving aircraft, or were held at departure airports before being allowed to depart for LAX during the two events. All United Airlines and Southwest Airlines flights at LAX were held by the FAA from 7:26 p.m. to 11:06 p.m. Wednesday.
Airport operations continued as normal in all terminals not impacted by continued power disruption or re-screening. On Wednesday, a total of 217 flights arrived and 159 flights departed during the power disruption.
Investing in Resiliency
LAWA and LADWP are making significant investments to improve power reliability and resiliency as part of the ongoing modernization projects, including the Landside Access Modernization Program, Midfield Satellite Concourse and the creation of a new power receiving station on airport property.
LAWA has been developing a power resiliency program, leveraging the resources of the U.S. Department of Energy, for LAX-specific redundancy.
LAWA, though a contract with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has led the creation of a nationwide airport resiliency group, which is looking at ways to collectively improve resiliency at airports across the U.S.
LAX last fall twice simulated power outages in both the north and south terminals. Lessons learned in these exercises contributed to the ability to keep critical safety and communications systems operating through Wednesday’s outage.
All of these efforts are to ensure the safety and security of LAWA’s guests and employees.