Several international airlines have said that flights into the United States will be cancelled beginning Wednesday due to concerns about possible interference between new 5G cell phone service and essential aeroplane technologies.
Service cuts have been announced by Emirates, Air India, All Nippon Airways, and Japan Airlines, all citing the issue as a reason.
Emirates has said that flights to Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco, and Seattle will be suspended. It claimed it would continue to fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport.
“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible,” Emirates said in its statement.
Air India has announced that service between Delhi Airport and San Francisco, Chicago, and JFK will be suspended. A Mumbai-Newark flight will also be cancelled.
It will continue to fly into Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
Both ANA and Japan Airlines said that some Boeing 777 flights to the United States have been cancelled, but that some Boeing 787 flights will be operated instead.
Delta Air Lines (DAL) announced on Tuesday evening that the new 5G service in the area of dozens of US airports could result in weather-related cancellations as early as Wednesday.
“Telecom companies agreed Tuesday to limit the scope of Wednesday’s planned 5G deployment and will delay implementation around certain U.S. airports. While this is a positive development toward preventing widespread disruptions to flight operations, some flight restrictions may remain” Delta stated in a statement that it must adhere to FAA restrictions already in place near the impacted airports.
Despite promises from federal telecom authorities and cellular carriers, transportation regulators were concerned that the version of 5G set to go live in January may interfere with some aeroplane equipment, and many aviation industry groups shared those concerns.
The FAA has been concerned that 5G cellular towers near some airports, rather than air travellers’ mobile devices, could cause readings from aircraft equipment designed to tell pilots how far they are from the ground to be thrown off. Radar altimeters are systems that are used during a flight and are considered vital equipment. (In contrast to traditional altimeters, which rely on air pressure readings and do not use radio signals to determine height, radar altimeters use radio signals to determine altitude.)
In December, the FAA issued an emergency order preventing pilots from using potentially affected altimeters near airports where limited visibility would normally necessitate their use. In some cases, the new rule might prevent planes from landing at certain airports since pilots would be unable to land using only instruments.
Both AT&T and Verizon, which owns CNN’s parent company, stated on Tuesday that they will delay the activation of 5G on some towers near airports. The wireless technology was supposed to be rolled out near major airports on Wednesday.
“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” Megan Ketterer, an AT&T spokesman, said.
The postponement was welcomed by the Biden administration, which said in a statement that it “agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled.”
CEOs from ten airlines wrote to Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, asking him to delay the already-delayed deployment. Because of possible interference with radar altimeters, which pilots use to land in low visibility conditions, airlines predict 1,000 flight cancellations per day. The telecom sector has not responded to the letter, but has stated such fears are unjustified because 5G has been successfully deployed in other nations.