Foreign airlines cancel some US flights despite 5G deal

A passenger plane (R) of Japan Airlines (JAL) flies past another of All Nippon Airways (ANA) at Narita International Airport in Narita, Chiba prefecture on July 18, 2021.

david gannon | AFP | Getty Images

Several foreign airlines are canceling flights to the United States over concerns about interference with 5G cellular services, despite a last-minute commitment from telecommunications giants Verizon and AT&T to delay the deployment of new networks near some airports. .

Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Emirates Airline announced on Tuesday that some flights to the United States would be suspended.

Boeing informed Japan Airlines that 5G signals for US mobile phones “could interfere with the radio wave altimeter installed on the Boeing 777”, the airline said.

This notification was sent before the telecommunications companies accepted the new limitations. On Wednesday, Japan Airlines said it resumed flights using the jumbo jet after clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration.

British Airways on Wednesday canceled seven flights to the United States that were scheduled with a 777, saying the deal does not cover all airports it serves.

The FAA did not immediately comment.

Dubai-based Emirates said on Tuesday the affected destinations were Boston; Chicago; Dallas/Fort Worth; Miami; Orlando Florida; San Francisco; Newark, New Jersey; and Seattle. Service to Los Angeles, New York John F. Kennedy International Airport and Washington, DC would operate as planned. The disruptions would continue until Thursday, he said.

“Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused,” the airline said in a statement. “We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and relevant authorities to mitigate operational issues, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible.”

The FAA had warned that the 5G service could interfere with certain sensitive equipment on board certain aircraft such as radio altimeters, which measure the distance from the plane to the ground. This instrument is especially crucial for low visibility landings, which are common during winter snowstorms and other types of weather.

Airlines had warned that security concerns would force them to cancel flights and had repeatedly urged the White House to intervene.

Some U.S. airlines planned to cancel flights as early as Tuesday before the deal with AT&T and Verizon, but were still reviewing the latest rules.

Delta Air Lines, for its part, said it anticipates the “possibility of weather-related cancellations caused by the rollout of new 5G service near dozens of U.S. airports, beginning Wednesday.”

“The FAA, which regulates airlines, has issued numerous advisories restricting flight activity near airports where this new deployment of 5G service in the C-band spectrum could cause limited interference with altitude instruments. aircraft in various weather conditions in which aircraft operate safely today,” the carrier said in a statement. “As such, Delta is taking the necessary steps to ensure that safety remains the priority in accordance with FAA guidelines.”

The airline, which scrapped change fees in 2020 for standard coach tickets, said it would waive fare differences if customers were to rebook.

United Airlines said Wednesday it expects “minor disruption at some airports due to remaining 5G restrictions” and applauded the deal with AT&T and Verizon.

“We look forward to a higher level of coordination between regulators, telecommunications companies and the aviation industry to ensure customers do not face disruption in the future,” the airline said in a statement. .

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