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Various airlines cancel flights to the United States over 5G deployment concerns

***UPDATE***: Emirates, Air India, Japan Airlines and ANA resume flights to the United States after cancellations due to 5G rollout

Various airlines, such as Emirates, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines and Air India, have announced that they would be cancelling flights to the United States as a result of potential 5G interference with radio altimeters onboard the Boeing B777 aircraft.

Emirates cancels flights to 9 US destinations

Emirates has announced that starting today (19th January 2022), all flights to the following 9 destinations will be cancelled until further notice:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Miami
  • Orlando
  • Newark
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle

Emirates will continue to operate flights to New York JFK, Los Angeles and Washington DC which are operated by Airbus A380. The Dubai-based airline has not outlined a resumption date for these flights, but the destinations to where the flights are suspended are operated by a Boeing B777 aircraft.

Emirates, in a statement, said:

Due to operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US at certain airports, Emirates will be suspending flights to the following US destinations from 19 January 2022 until further notice:

Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Miami (MIA), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA).

Customers holding tickets with the final destination to any of the above will not be accepted at the point of origin.

Emirates flights to New York JFK, Los Angeles (LAX) and Washington DC (IAD) continue to operate as scheduled.

The airline says that those passengers who are affected by the cancellation do not need to call the airline immediately for rebooking. Passengers can simply hold on to their Emirates ticket and when flights resume, get in touch with their travel agent or booking office to make new travel plans.

In announcing the suspension of flights, Emirates squarely placed the blame on the deployment of 5G mobile network services that could impact operations at certain airports. The carrier adds that it is ‘working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns’ and it hopes to resume its US services as soon as possible.

All Nippon Airways, Air India and Japan Airlines cancel flights too

In addition to Emirates, All Nippon Airways, Air India and Japan Airlines have also announced cuts to the US network, blaming concerns over the interference of 5G with the radio altimeter on Boeing 777s.

Air India has cancelled the following 4 US routes on 19th January 2022:

  • Delhi-New York-Delhi
  • Delhi-San Francisco-Delhi
  • Delhi-Chicago-Delhi
  • Mumbai-Newark-Mumbai

The airline says that its Delhi-Washington DC-Delhi flight will operate as per the schedule. The flights to the capital of the United States are operated by a Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner and hence, the flights remain unaffected. In addition, the flag carrier of India has announced that it will operate flights with a change in aircraft type after 19th January 2022.

All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have announced that some flights to the US stand cancelled. Where possible, both airlines have kept Boeing B787 operations to the US, though the airlines were unable to cover all US routes using Boeing B787s.

For example, Japan Airlines has canceled its flight between Tokyo Haneda and New York JFK on 19th January 2022 (Wednesday) whereas All Nippon Airways has cancelled flights to Seattle, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Chicago and Houston.

In addition to these flights, other flights might also get affected so IH Aviation and Travel advises those travelling in the near future to the United States to check the flight status with the airline.

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The mess of 5G deployment

AT&T and Verizon have been looking to roll out their 5G technology. T-Mobile’s 5G operations are not impacted. However, airlines in the United States, pilots, and regulators have concerns over how the technology could affect aviation. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been working with the providers to determine the best way to roll out the technology safely, as has been done in more than 40 countries. However, that has not stopped it from putting up additional requirements or barriers to operations in certain conditions at airports where 5G poses a risk to operations.

The FAA has released a list of 50 airports with 5G buffers where wireless transmitters are in close proximity to the runways. US airline industry CEOs and pilots have raised concerns over 5G and the potential disruption to operations. And without the FAA clearing major airports and hubs for operations with the rollout of 5G, it could essentially bar airlines from operating flights under certain conditions as is the case we are seeing with the above mentioned airlines.

For international airlines, this is a different headache. After a 10-12+ hour journey, any airline would want that their aircraft lands safely and comes back safely to their home country. Without that guarantee, operating those flights puts a risk on airlines to send aircraft out, which could lead to disrupted operations and, in a worst-case scenario, leave an aircraft with crew and passengers stuck somewhere until conditions improve for operations to continue.

5G-rollout is delayed however

Both Verizon and AT&T have delayed deploying the 5G technology near airports after a massive backlash from US airline on Tuesday.

Both the companies have spend billions of dollars acquiring the licenses to use the frequencies and after much delay, they were looking forward to start the roll-out of 5G network across the US on Wednesday. Causing contention was the use of the C-band frequencies near airports where aircraft use nearby frequencies to aid instrument landings.

AT&T, in a statement, said:

We have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment.

Verizon, in a statement, said:

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.

In a statement, US President Joe Biden thanked the telcos for agreeing to delay rolling out the controversial 5G technology near airports.

Biden said:

This agreement 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. This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans.

What do you think of the growing mess of 5G deployment in the United States? Let me know in the comments section below.

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