Ahead of the mega 5G rollout in the US, major airlines like Emirates, Air India, ANA and Japan Airlines have announced to cancel some flights over concerns that it could potentially interfere with some instruments and may put flyers' safety at risk. As a result, travel plans of thousands of passengers got disrupted, creating a major aviation crisis in the US.
Major airlines have cancelled major flight operations in view of the 5G rollout near the airports in the US. Emirates said that it is "suspending flights to the following US destinations from 19 January 2022 until further notice," listing Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco, and Seattle. The airline will continue to fly to New York JFK, Los Angeles (LAX), and Washington, DC (IAD), reports The Verge.
Similarly, Air India will also not be able to operate a number of US-bound flights. Airline operators in the US warned that the rollout could cause "catastrophic disruption" to their flight schedules.
Boeing has announced flight restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft. Japan Airlines also cites a notification from Boeing, saying that it was told that "5G signals for US mobile phones, which will begin operating in the US on January 19, 2022, may interfere with the radio wave altimeter installed on the Boeing 777."
How 5G rollout affects flights?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the concern is that the C-band 5G signals could interfere with the radar altimeters (navigation systems) used in some planes, creating a safety issue. This interference could prevent engine and braking systems from transitioning to landing mode, which could stop the aircraft from stopping on the runaway.
Telcos delay 5G rollout
However, both AT&T and Verizon have announced that they would voluntarily delay 5G antenna upgrades near certain airports. Verizon said that it will launch its 5G Ultra Wideband network on Wednesday which will enable more than 90 million Americans to experience the transformative speed, reliability and power of this game-changing network on the go or in their homes or businesses.
"As the nation's leading wireless provider, we have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports. 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," Verizon said in a statement.
US President Biden has thanked the carriers "for agreeing to delay 5G deployment around key airports and to continue working with the Department of Transportation on safe 5G deployment at this limited set of locations".
Thousands affected by mismanaged situation
The last-minute cancellations of flights due to the 5G rollout in US has disrupted travel plans of thousands of passengers, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which as it is requires special restrictions before boarding a flight. Passengers are required to carry a negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours and in some cases, passengers had to go from one city to another in order to catch a flight to US.
Prem Bhandari, New York-based social activist and chairman of REDIO, Rescuing Every Distressed Indian Overseas, commended Air India staff's ability, especially Sr AGM - Revenue Management at Air India in USA Sunil Daware and Sr Finance Manager at Air India Kamal Roul, to handle challenging tasks during the pandemic. He also noted that the management in Delhi could've handled the current crisis in a more effective manner.
I know of people who have travelled by road/air to get a connection from Delhi to New York. Passengers waited for over two hours at the airport before being told that the flight was cancelled. They should have been informed on time. It is not possible that the flight was cancelled at the last minute. I am inundated with calls from people who are inquiring when the flights will resume. Those travelling on the 19th of January are now stranded. Others travelling in the coming days and weeks are worried by the uncertainty caused by the suspension of the flights," Bhandari said.