Airlines cancel 320 flights after reduced 5G rollout in US
Hundreds of flights to and from the U.S. were canceled on Wednesday even after AT&T and Verizon scaled back the rollout of high-speed wireless service that was interfering with aircraft technology that measures altitude.
There are several reasons why the 5G rollout has been more of a challenge for airlines in the U.S. than in other countries: Cellular towers use a more powerful signal strength than those elsewhere; the 5G network operates on a frequency closer to the one many altimeters use, and cell tower antennae point up at a higher angle. A telecom industry group, CTIA, disputes the FAA’s claims.
Some experts say poor coordination and cooperation among federal agencies is as much to blame as any technical issues.
“The fights around this from federal agencies have just gotten more and more intense,” said Harold Feld, an expert on telecom policy at the advocacy group Public Knowledge.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it wasn’t aware of any problems on the continent caused by 5G interference. To mitigate airline interference, French telecom providers reduce the strength of their high-speed networks near airports.
Emirates, which relies heavily on the 777, halted flights to several American cities on Wednesday, but maintained service to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.
Tim Clark, president of Emirates, told CNN it was “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible” situations he’d ever seen as it involved a failure by government, science and industry.
Air India said on Twitter it would cancel flights to Chicago, Newark, New York and San Francisco because of the 5G issue. But it also said it would try to use other aircraft on U.S. routes — a course several other airlines took.
Korean Air, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and Austrian Airlines said they substituted different planes for flights that were scheduled to use 777s. Germany’s Lufthansa swapped out one kind of 747 for another on some U.S.-bound flights.
American Airlines Chief Operating Officer David Seymour said in a memo to staff that the carrier canceled flights while it awaited FAA approval of equipment on its Airbus aircraft.