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LAX power outage halts security screening, delays flights and traps some travelers

Los Angeles, CA - May 28: Amid a busy getaway travel day for the Memorial Day weekend and the first holiday since coronavirus pandemic restrictions have been relaxed, travelers make their way to their destinations at LAX, United Airlines, Terminal 7 in Los Angeles Friday, May 28, 2021. Officials say travelers should arrive early for Memorial Day weekend flights. After months of Los Angeles International Airport looking like a ghost town, holiday crowds are back. "We're seeing more travelers than we've seen in the last 14 months. We had over 75,000 people come through on Sunday alone to the TSA checkpoints, that's by far a record in 2021 for us," said LAX spokesperson Keith Montgomery. Photo taken in LAX on Friday, May 28, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Most terminals at Los Angeles International Airport lost power Wednesday afternoon, halting security screening and delaying flights. Above, passengers at Terminal 7 in May. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Much of Los Angeles International Airport lost power for about an hour Wednesday afternoon, backing up security lines, delaying flights and trapping people in elevators and on at least one plane.

The power outage affected most terminals, LAX officials said in social media posts, leaving some airport facilities, traffic lights and other systems offline. The airfield was operating normally, and teams were working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, according to LAX.

Airport officials warned that the Transportation Security Administration also stopped screening passengers in most terminals and that departing flights could be delayed by the loss of power to jet bridges.

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Shortly after 3 p.m., LAX officials tweeted that power had been restored or was in the process of being restored at most locations, and that security screenings were expected to resume soon.

The DWP was still investigating the incident and the cause was unknown, according to spokesperson Carol Tucker.

Crews in the field rerouted power to LAX and restored service after an outage of about 50 minutes, the DWP said in a tweet around 3:20 p.m.

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Nicky Bernal, 41, who was at the airport about an hour and 40 minutes early for her flight to El Paso, Texas, said that about six people were trapped in the elevators next to her. They waited 40 minutes for firefighters to rescue them and let them out from the outside.

All escalators were turned off, security checkpoints were down and stores had locked up their gates, Bernal said.

"We're being told that the power is down at the terminals as well so they are no longer boarding flights," she added.

The power came back on about 2:52 p.m. and people started cheering, Bernal said.

As security machines were being rebooted, passengers scrambled to check whether their flights were on time.

"Nobody knows," she said. "Everybody’s been checking their flights and nothing's been updated yet."

One traveler at LAX tweeted that people were stuck on a plane that had arrived but could not connect to the jet bridge.

John Rivera, who was waiting for his Southwest flight to Baltimore, said every kiosk and store was closed. "You couldn't buy a sandwich or get a cup of coffee or anything," he said.

Rivera said the airport was still rebooting systems about 20 minutes after the power came back on.

"I have a 45-minute layover in Phoenix, so if we're delayed even a little, I'm sunk," he said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.