Emirates, Air India, ANA, and Japan Airlines have announced plans to cancel flights to the US due to this week’s rollout of C-band 5G over concerns it could potentially interfere with some instruments, particularly on Boeing 777 aircraft. The airlines said they were either cancelling or changing the aircraft on some US-bound flights.
The announcement comes as cell carriers, federal agencies, airlines, and airplane manufacturers struggle to reach an agreement on policies regarding how the rollout should be handled.
Emirates’ announced that it was “suspending flights to the following US destinations from January 19, 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). Emirates says it’s “working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns” and that it hopes to start flying to the US again as soon as it’s able.
More airlines were affected as the day progressed. Reuters reports that Taiwan’s China Airlines will reschedule some flights, while South Korea’s Korean Air Lines switched away from Boeing’s 777 and 747-8 aircraft on six flights to the US, and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific says it’s prepared to use different planes if necessary. Lufthansa had canceled at least one US flight and was switching from the Boeing 747-8 to the 747-400 aircraft on some US routes. Air India, Singapore Airlines, and Austrian Airlines were also switching out 777 aircraft for US flights.
Airline operators in the US warned earlier in the day that the 5G rollout could cause catastrophic disruption to their flight schedules. According to the FAA, the concern is that the C-band 5G signals could interfere with the radar altimeters used in some planes, creating a safety issue.
ANA cites specific guidance from Boeing announced for 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 U.S. mobile phones may interfere with the radio wave altimeter installed on the Boeing 777.
Both AT&T and Verizon announced that they would voluntarily delay 5G antenna upgrades near certain airports. The chairwoman for the Federal Communications Commission issued a statement asking the FAA to complete the process of assessing altimeter performance and the effect C-band 5G communication on aircrafts.