Delta Air Lines said it sees weather-related flight cancelations as AT&T and Verizon readies for 5G roll out in and around the vicinity of major U.S. airports. Most of the other airlines also confirmed the same as the implementation of the new C-Band 5G service is expected to interfere with the working of onboard aircraft instruments.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that 5G wireless interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as radio altimeters and significantly hamper low-visibility operations.
Most airlines are still likely to go ahead with weather-related cancellations starting as early as Wednesday as they await formal safety guidance from the FAA. Some airlines said they will drop some routes and will not fly their 777 and 747-8 aircraft to and from the U.S. mainland after a warning from Boeing.
This despite the telecom companies agreeing on Tuesday to limit the scope of Wednesday’s planned 5G deployment and to delay implementation around certain U.S. airports. Though this move will prevent widespread disruptions to flight operations, some flight restrictions may remain.
This is the third time in as many months that AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay the deployment of the new 5G service, after initially postponing the deployment in November by 30 days until January 5 and then until January 19.
The FAA, which regulates airlines, has issued numerous notices that restrict flight activity near airports where this new deployment of 5G service could cause limited interference with altitude instruments on aircraft under various weather conditions that aircraft safely operate.
Delta is currently taking necessary steps to ensure safety remains the priority in compliance with FAA guidelines. It has also been evaluating its aircraft systems to ascertain whether their planes are safe to fly near airports where the 5G service is being rolled out.
Delta said it continues to work with “the FAA, the FCC and the telecom industry to find a practical solution that will allow for the rollout of 5G technology while preserving safety and avoiding flight disruptions.”
Delta has urged customers to download the Fly Delta app for the latest flight status updates. It will also proactively communicate with customers whenever possible about a cancellation or delay due to low visibility weather conditions.
The airline added that it will issue fare-difference waivers in advance of cancellations for those who reschedule their travel. The affected customers will be automatically rebooked on the next available flight if a flight is canceled. Delta will also send updates on itinerary changes directly to a mobile device or by email of customers.
Meanwhile, Delta has joined other airlines in seeking a delay by the Federal government of the deployment of this new 5G coverage into the C-band spectrum until more protections and assurances against potential interference with aircraft radio altimeters exist.
Radio altimeters are a critical piece of technology that inform many aircraft functions and gives pilots what they need to fly airplanes safely, especially during critical phases of flight.
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