Morning Sun

Airlines cancel some flights after reduced 5G rollout in U.S.

- By Jon Gambrell And David Koenig

DALLAS » Some flights to and from the U.S. were canceled on Wednesday even after AT&T and Verizon scaled back the rollout of high-speed wireless service that could interfere with aircraft technology that measures altitude.

Internatio­nal carriers that rely heavily on the wide-body Boeing 777, and other Boeing aircraft, canceled early flights or switched to different planes following warnings from the Federal Aviation Administra­tion and the Chicago-based plane maker. The 777 Airlines that fly only or mostly Airbus jets, including Air France and Ireland’s Aer Lingus, seemed less affected by the new 5G service.

Airlines had canceled more than 320 flights by Wednesday evening, or a little over 2% of the U.S. total, according to Flightawar­e. That was far less disruptive than during the Christmas and New Year’s travel season, when a peak of 3,200, or 13%, of flights were canceled on Jan. 3 due to winter storms and workers out sick with COVID-19.

A trade group for the industry, Airlines for America, said cancellati­ons weren’t as bad as feared because AT&T and Verizon agreed to temporaril­y reduce the rollout of 5G near dozens of airports while industry and the government work out a longer-term solution.

At O’hare Internatio­nal Airport in Chicago, Sudeep Bhabad said his father-inlaw’s flight to India was cancelled.

“They have to resolve this problem,” Bhabad said. “It would have been a lot better if they had resolved it way before and we knew this in advance, instead of, like, finding out when we are here at the airport.”

Similar mobile networks have been deployed in more than three dozen countries, but there are key difference­s in how the U.S. networks are designed that raised concern of potential problems for airlines.

The Verizon and AT&T networks use a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to the one used by radio altimeters, devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground to help pilots land in low visibility. The Federal Communicat­ions Commission, which set a buffer between the frequencie­s used by 5G and altimeters, said the wireless service posed no risk to aviation.

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