Airlines are scrambling to cancel flights and change flights over fears of 5G rollout

Major airlines around the world rushed to cancel or change flights to the United States on Wednesday ahead of the rollout of a new 5G cellular service that has sparked safety concerns.

The mess came despite Verizon and AT&T agreeing to temporarily restrict the launch of new C-band 5G service around some airports after airline chief executives warned it could cause “catastrophic” disruption.

Several airlines still opted to cancel or switch plane models for flights to the US after warning that the 5G launch could potentially disrupt signals used by radio altimeters that pilots use on some jets and planes Low visibility operations help land safely.

The US Federal Aviation Administration late Tuesday began updating its guidance on which airports and aircraft models could be affected by 5G rollout, with the problem apparently affecting the Boeing 777 in particular – a long-haul, wide-body airliner used by airlines worldwide is used.

Dubai’s Emirates announced it would suspend flights to at least nine US destinations from Wednesday. Flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, as well as to Los Angeles and Washington, DC should continue to operate. The airline is the world’s largest operator of the 777, according to its website.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines also confirmed to NBC News that they would be making flight changes.

Emirates is among airlines changing their US flight schedules as they roll out a new 5G service. Christopher Pike/Reuters file

Meanwhile, Japan’s two major airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, said they would also be holding back Boeing 777 flights to the United States, with the former airline saying it would cancel or change the planes used on some flights, according to Reuters .

Korean Air Lines, Air India and Taiwan’s China Airlines were also reportedly among those announcing flight changes.

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A spokesman for Singapore Airlines told NBC News the airline has changed aircraft operating on certain US routes “based on instructions from Boeing and in consultation with our regulators.”

Like Singapore Airlines, a number of other companies said they might have flight changes based on instructions from Boeing. Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

Delta Air Lines said it is also preparing for the possibility of weather-related cancellations triggered by the rollout of new 5G service.

John Laughter, Delta’s executive vice president and chief of operations, said Tuesday the company welcomes the telecoms companies’ decision to limit rollouts.

“We believe that industries can grow, innovate and coexist for the benefit of consumers,” said Lacher. “That’s why we continue to work with the FAA, FCC, and the telecom industry to find a practical solution that will enable the rollout of 5G technology while maintaining safety and avoiding flight disruptions.”

The statement came after Delta and other major US carriers, including American Airlines and United Airlines, sent a letter to US transportation and business officials on Monday warning that Wednesday’s 5G rollout could cause major disruption could lead.

In response, both AT&T and Verizon on Tuesday agreed to temporarily limit 5G service at some U.S. airports after already delaying the service rollout by two weeks over the same concerns.

Verizon said that while it would still proceed with 5G rollout, which would allow “more than 90 million Americans to experience the transformative speed,” it also acknowledged that some key “operational” issues remained to be resolved .

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully solve airport navigation using 5G, even though it is safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries,” Verizon said Tuesday.

AT&T said it also agreed to “temporarily delay the turning on of a limited number of towers around certain airport runways.”

However, the company said: “We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting flight services, and we urge them to do so in a timely manner.” to do.”

In a statement released on the FAA’s website on Tuesday, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said the US would continue to “lead the world in safety” as it rolls out 5G on Wednesday.

“We recognize the economic importance of 5G rollout and appreciate the wireless companies working with us to protect the country’s flying public and supply chain,” he said. “The complex U.S. airspace is a global leader in aviation safety because of our high safety standards, and we will maintain that commitment as wireless carriers deploy 5G.”

The FAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News on Wednesday.


Reuters contributed.

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