US flights cancelled by Air India and Emirates due to 5G rollout

The formal rollout of 5G technology in the US is supposed to happen today (January 19, 2022), and it had already disrupted aviation even before the formal rollout started. Many airlines have had their US flights cancelled after a Boeing missive which advised them to do so!

Update: Air India has resumed USA flights.

Air India, Emirates, Japan Airlines and ANA US flights cancelled

In a late-night announcement, Air India was the first off the mark to cancel their flights to the United States.

Air India cancelled all their flight operations from India to the United States, which used the Boeing 777 aircraft. At the same time, they went ahead with the flight to Washington DC, which is operated with a Boeing 787 aircraft. At present, all inventory for these flights seems to have been zeroed out till January 31, 2022.

Emirates also came up with a late-night notification cancelling most of their flights to the US and has zeroed out inventory through the end of January 2022. It read as follows,

Due to operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US at certain airports, Emirates will be suspending flights to the following US destinations from 19 January 2022 until further notice:

Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Miami (MIA), Newark (EWR), Orlando (MCO), San Francisco (SFO) and Seattle (SEA).

Customers holding tickets with the final destination to any of the above will not be accepted at the point of origin.

Emirates flights to New York JFK, Los Angeles (LAX) and Washington DC (IAD) continue to operate as scheduled.

Japan Airlines and ANA, the Japanese carriers, also similarly cancelled their flights to the US due to the 5G Rollout.

The US 5G Rollout and how it affects aviation

There has been a lot of conversation ongoing about the rollout of 5G services and their ability to interfere with aircraft operations. The FAA woke up to this issue only in December 2021, at which point it took the stance that 5G rollout should be delayed until the safety of 5G operations around airports could be determined. Here is a page set up on the FAA website which elaborates on their position.

The key argument has been made that 5G rollout could potentially interfere with aircraft navigation systems and that deployment could significantly impact airline operations. The FAA states that other countries have mitigated the risk caused by 5G rollout by:

  • Lower power levels
  • Antennas tilted downward to reduce potential interference to flights
  • Different placement of antennas relative to airfields
  • Frequencies with a different proximity to frequencies used by aviation equipment
  • The early stages of the 5G deployment in the U.S. will include mitigations that are partly similar to those used to help protect air travel in France. However, even these proposals have some significant differences.

FAA says it worked with aviation participants and wireless companies to establish buffer zones near various airports.

Ironically, this list includes JFK, EWR and SFO, flights to all of which have been cancelled for the time being by Air India, and also Emirates (apart from JFK, which continues).

Why were US flights cancelled?

The FAA, in the meanwhile, also finally started to clear various aircraft which could still work without the 5G airwaves running interference. The airplane models approved include some Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, MD-10/-11 and Airbus A310, A319, A320, A321, A330 and A350 models. Even these aircraft only account for 45% of the US Airlines’ operational fleet.

As you would note, this list currently misses out on 777 and A380 aircraft, which are the backbone of the Air India and Emirates international fleets. As reported by The Air Current first, Boeing has sent out a message to various airlines operating the 777 and the 747, stating,

recommends operators do not operate the 777 airplanes on approach and landing to US Runways

With 5G C Band notices starting January 19, 2022. It will help if you read the complete reporting of the 5G rollout from The Air Current to get a more nuanced picture.

In the meantime, 5G operators seem to have voluntarily held back on activating 5G sites near airports. However, how long they will hold on is anyone’s guess.

Bottomline

Emirates, Air India, Japan Airlines and ANA have cancelled most operations to the USA due to the rollout of 5G networks in the US, which could cause interference with the navigation aids of the aircraft when arriving in the US. How long do these cancellations last is not determined now, but some airlines have zeroed out inventory through the end of January 2022 to start with.

Have you been at the receiving end, with your US Flights cancelled by Air India or Emirates or another carrier? Do tell us what does your airline think in terms of resuming services to the US. 


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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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Comments

  1. What is happening to AI’s New York to India flights? It appears that Feb 4th is the last date for JFK-DEL, and then moves to EWR-DEL? Any insight into this, does this have anything to do with the 5G thing, or was this always a planned move? This now complements AI’s EWR-BOM flight.

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