Mon | Jul 4, 2022

Major airlines cancel, change flights to US over 5G dispute

Published:Wednesday | January 19, 2022 | 10:59 AM
An Emirates jetliner comes in for landing at the Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 11, 2019. Airlines across the world, including the long-haul carrier Emirates, rushed Wednesday.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) —
Major international airlines cancelled flights heading to the US or changed the planes they're using Wednesday, the latest complication in a dispute over concerns that new 5G mobile phone service could interfere with aircraft technology.

Carriers took widely different approaches to the brewing crisis affecting international travel, from Middle Eastern airline Emirates drastically reducing its US bound flights to Air France saying it would fly as normal.

It wasn't immediately clear why the airlines made those decisions — or whether they took into account that mobile carriers AT&T and Verizon agreed this week to pause the roll out of the new high-speed wireless service near key airports.

But some said they received warnings from the US Federal Aviation Administration or Boeing that the plane maker's 777 — used by carriers worldwide — was particularly affected by the new service.

It was also not clear how disruptive the cancellations would be. Several airlines said they would try to merely use different planes to maintain their schedules.

Similar mobile networks have been deployed in dozens of other countries — but there are some key differences in how the US network works that could make it more likely to cause problems for airlines.

The new 5G networks use a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by radio altimeters, which measure the height of aircraft above the ground and help pilots land in low visibility.

The US Federal Communications Commission, which sets a buffer between the frequency that 5G uses and the one that altimeters use, determined that it could be used safely in the vicinity of air traffic.

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