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Breaking: Emirates and Other Airlines Cancel U.S. Flights Over 5G Safety Fears

Breaking: Emirates and Other Airlines Cancel U.S. Flights Over 5G Safety Fears

A slew of international airlines, including Emirates, ANA and Japan Airlines, said on Tuesday that they were cancelling flights bound for the United States over C-Band 5G safety fears. The 5G rollout from AT&T and Verizon is set to go ahead on Wednesday despite objections from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. airlines.

Both telecoms companies said on Tuesday they had voluntarily agreed not to turn on some 5G towers close to priority airports in a move designed to appease the aviation industry. But the measure was either came too late or was not enough to prevent a growing number of international airlines, which also included Air India, from pulling out of the U.S. market.

In a statement posted to its website, Emirates said it was suspending service to a slew of U.S. airports “due to operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US”.

All Emirates flights to nine U.S. airports have been axed for the foreseeable future: Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Miami (MIA), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA).

The airline will continue to serve just three U.S. airports: New York JFK, Los Angeles (LAX) and Washington DC (IAD).

“Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused. We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible,” a spokesperson for the Dubai-based airline said.

The C-Band frequency used by AT&T and Verizon for their 5G technology is very close to the frequencies used by aircraft radio altimeters, as well as a number of other aircraft systems. The aircraft altimeter allows the plane to land in fully automatic mode during severe weather or low visibility conditions.

The FAA has cleared some radio altimeters as safe to use in proximity to 5G but models fitted to popular long-haul aircraft like the Boeing 777, 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380 have not been approved as safe.

Emirates only operates the Boeing 777 and Airbus A380. The other affected airlines are also Boeing 777 and 787 operators.

In a statement, Japan Airlines explained the discussions it had held with aircraft manufacturer Boeing:

“Boeing has notified us that 5G signals for U.S. mobile phones, which will begin operating in the U.S. on January 19, 2022, may interfere with the radio wave altimeter installed on the Boeing 777.”

“We have decided not to use this aircraft-type on the U.S. mainland routes until safety is confirmed, and we regret to cancel the flight that cannot be changed to Boeing 787,” the statement continued.

Although C-Band 5G has been deployed in a number of other countries without disruption to aviation, the FAA says this is because those countries have implemented mitigations around airports that prevent any interference.

AT&T placed the blame for the crisis on the FAA, saying the agency had failed to take action on the issue for two years when it was first known that 5G would be deployed on the C-Band.

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