Major airlines cancel or change flights to the USA because of 5G dispute

DUBAI (UAE) -- Major international airlines cancelled flights to the U.S. on Wednesday or modified their planes. This was the latest in a series of complications arising from concerns that the new 5G mobile service could cause interference with aircraft technology.

19 January 2022 Wednesday 10:59
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Major airlines cancel or change flights to the USA because of 5G dispute

Different carriers responded to the crisis that was threatening international travel. Air France said it would fly as usual, while Middle Eastern airline Emirates dramatically reduced its U.S. bound flights.

It was not immediately clear what the airlines did to make these decisions. They also didn't consider that AT&T and Verizon, mobile carriers, had agreed this week for the rollout of high-speed wireless services near airports to be halted. Some said that they were notified by Boeing or the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration about the potential impact on the 777 plane maker -- which is used worldwide by carriers -- by the new service.

Also, it was not clear how disruptive cancellations would prove to be. Many airlines stated that they would use other planes in order to keep their schedules intact.

Although similar mobile networks have been installed in many other countries, there are key differences in the U.S. network that could pose a problem for airlines.

New 5G networks utilize a portion of the radio spectrum close to radio altimeters. These radio altimeters measure the height of an aircraft from the ground and aid pilots in landing in low visibility conditions. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission established a buffer between 5G's frequency and that used by altimeters to ensure that the radio spectrum could be safely used in the vicinity of air traffic.

AT&T and Verizon both stated that their equipment would not interfere with the electronics of aircrafts.

FAA officials recognized a problem and ordered a pause to be in place Tuesday until it was addressed.

Emirates announced Wednesday that it will suspend flights to certain American cities because of "operational concerns associated [with the] planned deployment 5G mobile network service in the U.S.A at certain airports." However, it said it would continue flying to Los Angeles and New York.

The state-owned airline stated that it was working with the aircraft manufacturers and relevant authorities to address operational concerns. It also said that they hope to resume U.S. services soon.

President of Emirates Tim Clark was not afraid to speak out about the crisis. CNN was told by Clark that it was "one the most delinquent and utterly irresponsible" circumstances he had ever seen, as it involved failures in science, government, and industry.

The Boeing 777 is a particular concern. Emirates flies only that model and the Airbus A380 Jumbo Jet -- it was one of the most severely affected airlines.

Japan's All Nippon Airways stated that the FAA had "indicated that radio waves from 5G wireless may interfere with aircraft airtimeters."

"Boeing announced flight restrictions on all airlines that operate the Boeing 777 aircraft and we have canceled/changed the aircraft for some flights from/to the U.S. based upon the announcement made by Boeing," ANA stated. The issue affected 20 flights to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Japan Airlines also stated that it was informed of possible interference with the 777.

It stated that it would cease using the model in the U.S. continental for now. Three passenger flights and five cargo flights were both affected by Wednesday's disruptions. Taiwan's EVA Air said that the FAA had specifically stated that 777s could be affected but did not specify how it would alter its schedule.

Air France stated that it would continue to fly its Boeing 777s into American airspaces. Air France did not provide any explanations as to why its aircraft wasn't changed like other airlines.

The Chicago-based Boeing Co. didn't immediately respond to our request for comment.

Air India also tweeted that it was cancelling flights to Chicago, Newark and New York because of the 5G issue.

It also stated that it would use other aircraft on U.S. flights -- something many other airlines have done.

Korean Air, Hong Kong Cathay Pacific and Austrian Airlines stated that they have substituted other planes for flights that were to use 777s. Jill Chung, a Korean Air spokesperson, said that the airline had also stopped operating certain types of 747s at affected airfields. German Lufthansa also switched out one type of 747 to another on U.S. bound flights.

British Airways cancelled several U.S. bound Boeing 777 flights, and switched aircraft on other flights.

According to the FAA, planes equipped with reliable and accurate altimeters will be able to fly around high-power 5G. However, older altimeters won't be permitted to land in low-visibility areas.

According to the FAA, there are several issues that could make 5G rollout in the U.S. more problematic than elsewhere. American towers use stronger signal strength than others, the network operates at a frequency that is closer to that used by altimeters, and tower antennae point higher.

The FAA stated in December that "base stations in rural areas of America are allowed to emit at higher levels than other countries, which could affect radio altimeter equipment reliability and accuracy,"

France is one example of a country that reduces the power of its networks near airports.

In a statement, the FCC chairwoman stated that 5G can safely coexist with other aviation technologies in the United States. Jessica Rosenworcel however urged the FAA not to rush its safety inspections.

Verizon and AT&T spent billions of dollars last year to acquire the 5G spectrum, known as C-Band, in a government auction.

Choi Jongyun, a spokesperson for Asiana Airlines, stated that the company has not been affected by the incident because it uses Airbus planes to fly passengers to the U.S.

Choi however raised an interesting point. Choi said that the FAA has instructed airlines to not land automatically at U.S. airports in bad weather conditions regardless of their plane type. She stated that Asiana will redirect its planes from affected airports to avoid these conditions.



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