Airlines suspend flights to US due to 5G uncertainty

(CNN) — Several international airlines have announced they will cancel flights to the United States from Wednesday amid uncertainty over interference between the new 5G mobile phone service and key technologies for aircraft operations.

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Emirates, Air India, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have all announced service cuts citing the problem.

Emirates has announced that it will suspend flights to nine US airports: Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle. He said he would continue to fly to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Los Angeles Airport and Washington Dulles.

“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and relevant authorities to mitigate operational issues, and we look forward to resuming our services to the United States as soon as possible,” Emirates said in its statement.

Air India has announced that it will suspend service between Delhi airport and San Francisco, Chicago and JFK. It will also suspend a flight from Mumbai to Newark.

ANA and Japan Airlines have both announced that they have canceled some flights to the United States that were to use Boeing 777s, but will instead operate some flights with Boeing 787s.

Transportation regulators were already concerned that the version of 5G due to go live in January could interfere with some aircraft instruments, and many aviation industry groups shared those fears, despite assurances from federal telecom regulators. and mobile phone operators.

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Specifically, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is concerned that 5G cellular antennas near certain airports, and not air travelers’ mobile devices, could skew readings from certain aviation equipment designed to tell pilots how far away they are. of the ground. These systems, known as radar altimeters, are used during flight and are considered critical equipment. (Radar altimeters differ from standard altimeters, which are based on atmospheric pressure readings and do not use radio signals to measure altitude.)

The FAA had already decided in December to issue an urgent order prohibiting pilots from using the potentially affected altimeters around airports where low visibility conditions would require them. This new rule could prevent planes from reaching certain airports in certain circumstances, as pilots would not be able to land using instruments alone.

AT&T, owner of CNN’s parent company, and Verizon announced on Tuesday that they would delay the activation of 5G on certain towers around certain airports. The launch of wireless technology near major airports was scheduled for Wednesday.

“We are frustrated with the FAA’s failure to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely implement 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and urge it to do so in due time. timely,” said AT&T spokeswoman Megan Ketterer.

The Biden administration welcomed the postponement, saying in a statement that “the agreement will prevent potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations and our economic recovery, while enabling more than 90% of the deployment of the wireless turn to go as planned”.

In a letter on Tuesday, the CEOs of 10 airlines asked the Biden administration to delay the already postponed launch. Airlines estimate there are 1,000 flight disruptions a day due to possible interference with radar altimeters used by pilots to land in low visibility conditions. The telecoms industry did not comment on the letter, but said the fears were unfounded as there were no issues in other countries where 5G has already been rolled out.

CNN’s Brian Fung and Jackie Wattles contributed to this report.

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