Airlines cancel some flights to US ahead of 5G deployment

19 Jan 2022

Image: © Lukas Wunderlich/Stock.adobe.com

Emirates and other airlines have cancelled some US-bound flights despite Verizon and AT&T pausing 5G roll-outs near airport runways.

Major international airlines have cancelled some flights to US cities as the controversial roll-out of 5G by Verizon and AT&T is due to begin today (19 January).

Citing concerns that 5G signals might interfere with the operation of certain flights, airlines including Emirates, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Air India and Delta are planning to or have suspended some flights to the US, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Future Human

Emirates said yesterday that it is suspending nine flights to major US cities including Boston, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco from today until further notice. Flights to New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC will go ahead as normal.

“Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused. 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,” the Dubai-based airline said in a statement.

Japan Airlines, ANA and Air India said they have been advised by Boeing to cancel US-bound 777 flights due to the 5G deployment. ANA told The Wall Street Journal that its decision to cancel 10 flights was made before Verizon and AT&T conceded to limit deployment around runways yesterday.

Airlines v 5G

Airlines and mobile network operators in the US have been at loggerheads in recent months, leading to a heated debate over which industry gets precedence and culminating in the decision to delay 5G deployment until 19 January.

Yesterday, Verizon and AT&T temporarily agreed not to turn on 5G wireless services near some airport runways, to give airlines more time to figure out how to bypass any potential disruptions to flight operations caused by the next-generation network.

“We have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries,” Verizon said in a statement.

In a statement on 3 January, the FAA said airlines and 5G have co-existed in other countries because the power levels have been reduced around airports and there has been ample cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment – which was not the case in the US.

US president Joe Biden thanked Verizon and AT&T yesterday and said that the agreement “protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption”, while also bringing high-speed internet to millions of US residents.

“This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90pc of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled,” he said.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com