Some major international airlines are either replacing the planes they’re using on flights to the U.S. or canceling them completely on Wednesday due to concerns over the rollout of 5G mobile networks.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and many airlines have expressed worries about how the 5G networks that are beginning to operate in the United States on Wednesday will affect sensitive in-flight tools, most notably the radio altimeter.
Radio altimeters tell pilots how close they are to the ground, making accurate readings indispensable, especially when planes need to land in low visibility. According to pilots, the bandwidth at which 5G signals operate may conflict with radio altimeters and cause malfunctions.
The two major government agencies at the core of this confusion are the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC, which regulates communications technology in the U.S., has said that the 5G technology is safe and will not create problems with flight equipment. The FAA, on the other hand, has shared concerns over how the new technology will impact aviation safety.
5G technology has been released in other countries without incident, but according to the Associated Press, there are differences in how the network will work in the U.S. that could increase the likelihood of interference.
A report from USA Today notes that Verizon and AT&T have agreed to not rollout 5G technology within 2 miles of airports, though some airlines have still altered their plans to be safe.
The president of Emirates, Tim Clark, referred to the confusion over the 5G rollout as “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible” situations he had seen, citing how it involved failure by both the government and tech communities. Emirates was one of the most heavily impacted airlines because much of their fleet is made up of Boeing 777s, which are the aircraft most susceptible to the 5G issues.
Here are some other airlines and their responses to the 5G rollout:
- Air India: suspending flights between Delhi and San Francisco, Chicago, and JFK as well as a flight from Mumbai to Newark
- Japan Airlines: replacing Boeing 777s with 787s
- Lufthansa: canceled a flight from Frankfurt to Miami and is swapping out some aircraft
- British Airways: some cancelations to the U.S.
- Delta Airlines: monitoring situation for weather-related cancelations
- Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM: no cancelations, but both airlines are monitoring the situation
- Singapore Airlines: switching the aircraft used for some U.S. flights
USA Today reports that cancelations on Wednesday have been minimal so far but can be tracked using FlightAware.
For the latest, follow our travel news coverage.