National carrier Air India has halted all of its flights to the USA from India, in light of the roll-out of 5G services in the country. The aviation community has expressed concerns around the safety of the decision, with a group of USA-based airlines stating in a letter that the move could lead to a catastrophic crisis. By Eshita Srinivas
Air India, which has scheduled flights to New York, Newark, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco, recently took to Twitter to announce that it would reschedule or curtail its flights to the USA starting today. This comes in over concerns with the country’s deployment of 5G services. The new move, which intends to provide fliers with faster internet access, has led to several airlines suspending operations, all of whom have hinted at the possibility of major flight disruptions and cancellations in the near future. Many have warned that the technology can interfere with sensitive aircraft instruments and pose a safety hazard, particularly during landing.
#FlyAI: Due to deployment of the 5G communications in USA,we will not be able to operate the following flights of 19th Jan’22:
Please standby for further updates.https://t.co/Cue4oHChwx
— Air India (@airindiain) January 18, 2022
Major airlines have expressed concerns around the 5G rollout
American aviation regulator, Federal Aviation Administration has warned that 5G services could interfere with different systems on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, especially while landing. Adding to this are plane manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, who expressed concerns of the aircraft’s ability to operate safely with 5G services, in a joint letter to the US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The Hindu reports that United Airlines added to these pointers by predicting that the plan would negatively affect passengers, disrupt cargo services across 40 large airports, and impact the schedules of over 15,000 flights.
So far today, Air India, ANA, Japan Airlines, and Emirates have cancelled some services to the United States due to concerns the deployment of 5G wireless networks could affect the radio altimeters in the aircraft used on these routes. pic.twitter.com/xkFtRauxCk
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) January 18, 2022
The airlines stated that pilots rely on certain safety equipment during take off and landing, especially in difficult weather conditions, that could be hampered by the signals. “We won’t compromise on safety – full stop. But, governments in other countries have successfully designed policies to ensure the safe deployment of 5G technology and we’re simply asking the US government to do the same. Otherwise, the radio altimeters on certain aircraft, which provide information to other safety systems like autopilot, heads-up displays, terrain warning, and pitch control, will be compromised and will result in significant restrictions on 787s, 777s, 737s, and regional aircraft in major cities like Houston, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.”
The White House has asked mobile firms to limit 5G services around airports for now
Verizon and AT&T agree to delay the rollout of 5G services for two weeks over safety concerns about how it affects air travel
This morning I spoke with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg who helped negotiate the agreement. He explained what happens next. pic.twitter.com/QR70Fg736m
— Jessica Savage (@JessicaSavageTV) January 4, 2022
Amidst this, telecom companies Verizon and AT&T have reiterated that they have implemented the technology elsewhere with no damage. However, after taking stock of all the concerns and requests, the White House has asked them to temporarily limit 5G services around some airports. Stating that the delay would only affect 10 percent of wireless tower locations, President of the USA Joe Biden said, “This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans,” He added that talks were on to find more permanent, workable solutions around key airports, as per a report by the BBC.
Apart from Air India, Emirates and Japan’s two major airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, have grounded their Boeing 777 fleets. British Airways, meanwhile, switched aircrafts from the usual Boeing 777 to an Airbus A380, as per a report by the Hindustan Times.