Some international airlines have been cancelling flights to the United States in reaction to Verizon and AT&T turning on their 5G wireless communications networks. Two domestic airlines, Delta and United, have reacted to the possibility of interference with their planes’ navigation equipment. The 5G wireless networks use frequencies in the C band adjacent to frequencies used by aviation navigation equipment. Verizon and AT&T activated their 5G C-band networks at 12:01 a.m. today.
“When deployed next to runways, the 5G signals could interfere with the key safety equipment that pilots rely on to take off and land in inclement weather,” United Airlines said in a statement on its website.
According to a Daily Mail news story, “United Airlines told customers on a flight from Denver to Houston that a three-hour delay was a result of the new 5G systems, according to a notice on its website. It also suggested customers with any concerns reach out to the FCC.”
The story also said that British Airways opted to switch aircraft on its daily flight to Los Angeles to an Airbus A380 from the usual Boeing 777 service. The Daily Mail credited Reuters as the source of the British Airways information, and in turn, Reuters cited two people that it said were familiar with the matter.
Delta Airlines said it was planning for the possibility of weather-related cancellations caused by the deployment of new 5G service in the vicinity of dozens of U.S. airports.
“The FAA, which regulates airlines, has issued numerous notices that restrict flight activity near airports where this new deployment of 5G service in the C-band spectrum could cause limited interference with altitude instruments on aircraft under various weather conditions that aircraft safely operate in today,” the airline said. “As such, Delta is taking the necessary steps to ensure safety remains the priority in compliance with FAA guidelines.”
Verizon and AT&T Telecom said on Tuesday they would limit the scope of today’s 5G deployment and would delay implementation around certain U.S. airports, Delta Airlines said. While this is a positive development toward preventing widespread disruptions to flight operations, some flight restrictions may remain, the airline said.
“We appreciate the decision to limit the rollout of this service near airports,” said Delta’s executive vice president and chief of operations, John Laughter, on Tuesday. “We believe industries can grow, innovate and coexist for the benefit of consumers. That’s why we’re continuing to work with the FAA, the FCC and the telecom industry to find a practical solution that will allow for the rollout of 5G technology while preserving safety and avoiding flight disruptions.”