Airlines including British Airways, Emirates and Air India have canceled or changed US-bound flights owing to concerns about the deployment of 5G mobile phone technology near airports.
The US aviation watchdog has said 5G signals could interfere with radio altimeters, which measure how high a plane is in the sky and are a crucial piece of equipment for pilots, particularly when landing in bad weather.
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) began updating its guidance on which airports and aircraft models would be affected on Tuesday. Airlines say the Boeing 777 is initially in the spotlight.
AT&T and Verizon, the two wireless carriers behind the 5G plans, said they would pause the rollout near key airports, which had been due to take place on Wednesday.
British Airways said on Wednesday it had canceled a “handful” of flights to destinations including New York, San Francisco and Boston. It said: “Safety is always our priority and although we had to cancel a handful of services, we’ve done everything we can to minimize inconvenience for our customers. We’ve changed the aircraft operating some of our flights and rebooked those on canceled services on to alternatives.”
Dubai-based Emirates, the world’s largest operator of 777s, said it would halt flights to Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Newark, New Jersey, Orlando, Florida, San Francisco and Seattle over the issue. It said it would continue flights to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.
In its announcement, Emirates said the cancellations were due to “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US at certain airports”.
Japan’s two major airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines, said they would curtail Boeing 777 flights. ANA said it was canceling or changing the aircraft used on some US flights.
Air India announced it would cancel flights to Chicago, Newark, New York and San Francisco “due to deployment of the 5G communications” equipment. It said it would try to use other aircraft on US routes.
Germany’s Lufthansa said it had canceled a flight from Frankfurt to Miami and was switching aircraft used on some US services from the Boeing 747-8 to the 747-400. Its subsidiary Austrian Airlines said it would switch from a 777 to a 767 on its Newark service.
Korean Air said it had switched away from 777s and 747-8s on six US passenger and cargo flights. Taiwan’s China Airlines said it would reschedule some flights, and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways said it would deploy different aircraft types if needed.
The airlines said they were acting in response to a notice from Boeing that 5G signals could interfere with the radio altimeter on the 777, leading to restrictions.