Due to concerns about potential interference between new 5G cell phone services and essential aviation technologies, major international airlines like American Airlines are hurrying to change or cancel flights to the United States. Airlines such as Emirates, Air India, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, and British Airways have all canceled flights due to the problem. British Airways says the cancellations were caused by telecom operators delaying the activation of the new 5G service in some regions.
Emirates said it is concerned like American Airlines and that flights to Chicago O’Hare, Miami, and Dallas Fort Worth are canceled, as well as flights to Boston, Orlando, San Francisco, Newark, Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and Seattle. It claimed it would continue to fly into John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport, and Washington Dulles Airport. In the statement, Emirates also revealed that the airline company is collaborating with aircraft manufacturers along with other agencies to reduce and eliminate operational concerns and hopes to resume canceled services in the fastest manner possible.
Air India announced its similar concern to American Airlines and that its services between Delhi and San Francisco, Chicago, and JFK will be suspended. Another flight canceled by Air India is the Mumbai-Newark flight. However, it will continue flights into Dulles Airport in Washington. Both ANA and Japan Airlines canceled some scheduled Boeing 777 flights to the United States, but plans to use Boeing 787 flights instead are in place.
The FAA issued an ordinance in December related to American Airlines’ concern. The ordinance prohibits pilots from using potentially compromised altimeters near airports where limited visibility would otherwise necessitate them. In some cases, this can result in keeping planes from landing at certain airports when pilots fly planes that require radar altimeters. Several airlines have yet to cancel any flights. Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM, for example, have yet to cancel any flights, but both companies say they are keeping a close eye on the situation. Delta Air Lines said it is preparing for the prospect of weather-related disruptions caused by the new rollout of 5G service in the vicinity of dozens of airports.
Despite promises from national government telecom authorities and cellular carriers, American Airlines’ reason for canceling flights echoes through the transportation regulation industry. Many transportation authorities fear that the 5G version that was set to be turned on will interfere with some or all airplane instrumentation. Radar altimeters are systems that are used during a flight and are considered vital equipment. Traditional altimeters rely on air pressure readings and do not use radio signals to determine height. This is different from radar altimeters, which use radio signals to determine altitude.
A spokesperson for AT&T, Megan Ketterer, said, “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 in a timely manner.” The delay was welcomed by the Biden Administration, which revealed in a statement that it believes the delay “will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery while allowing more than 90% of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled.” Because of possible interference with radar altimeters, airlines predict there is a potential for up to 1,000 flight cancellations per day. The telecom sector states such fears are unjustified because 5G has been deployed in other parts of the world without aviation issues.