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On January 18, 2022, we learned that several foreign airlines had suspended flights to and from the U.S. due to the planned rollout of C-Band 5G wireless service in numerous markets across the country.
Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration claimed that the frequencies used by the new 5G service could interfere with certain aircrafts’ (primarily the Boeing 777) altimeters — the instrument used to measure altitude — leading to the cancellations of many flights operated by 777s.
After what were likely some frenzied behind-the-scenes negotiations between airlines, the FAA, the nation’s 2 largest wireless providers (AT&T and Verizon), and even the White House, the mobile providers agreed to scale back their rollout around certain airports to give the FAA and airlines time to figure out how to operate aircraft safely with the presence of the new C-Band 5G service.
Now, airlines have announced that they’re resuming flights once again and working to bring their schedules back to normal in the coming days.
Let’s have a look at the latest in this developing story.
Flights Are Resuming
Air India, All Nippon Airways (ANA), British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, and Japan Airlines were the major carriers to announce alterations to their schedule or cancellations of flights.
Air India shared in a tweet that it will resume normal operations to and from the U.S. as of January 21.
In a statement released on January 19, ANA said that it would be resuming its normal schedule of flights to the U.S. thanks to the postponement of 5G deployment around several airports.
Japan’s other global airline, Japan Airlines, also said in a statement that it received word from the FAA that there is no longer a risk of interference with the 777 and that it would resume all its flights to the U.S. as of January 20.
Emirates, which had canceled the majority of its U.S. flights, shared in a statement that it would be resuming service to Chicago (ORD), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), and Seattle (SEA) on January 21. Service to Boston (BOS), Houston (IAH), and San Francisco (SFO) is set to resume on January 22.
Germany’s Lufthansa had swapped Boeing 747-400 aircraft on some routes that are typically operated by the newer -8 variant. But as of January 20, the airline has once again put the -8 on the affected routes, which included Frankfurt (FRA) to Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), and San Francisco (SFO).
For now, at least, the U.S. has avoided a catastrophe in the commercial aviation sector. Had all the major players in this drama remained on different pages, we could have seen cancellations in the hundreds — leading to bedlam as thousands of Americans could have been stuck abroad, not to mention the thousands more tourists and businesspeople who would have been scrambling to find a way into the country.
While it looks like the worst hasn’t come to pass, this is only a temporary solution, and airlines, the FAA, the wireless providers, and the government will need to work quickly to find a more permanent solution to guarantee that cutting-edge 5G technology and commercial aviation can exist safely side-by-side.
Featured Image Credit: peshkov via Adobe Stock
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