US Businesses and Airlines Brace for “Catastrophic” 5G Flight Disruption 

Airlines are extremely concerned about the impact of 5G signals could have on aircrafts' altitude-measuring capabilities.
Aaron Drapkin

International Airlines have grounded flights bound for the US after fears over 5G’s potential impact on flight navigation systems. 

A collection of the major US Airlines have also decried the move, citing the unnecessary disruption it will cause workers traveling in and out of the country, with tens of thousands of US citizens thought to be affected.

US businesses and organizations relying on goods shipped from other countries have been warned that their supply chains could be affected due to the issues, as well as companies that haven't already set their employees up with the tools needed to work remotely.

What have the US Airlines Said?

On Sunday (Jan 16), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) cleared only 45% of the US's commercial fleet to fly – with Boeing 777s – thought to be most affected – not included. However, This approval opened up runways at 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G interference. Before this, none of the 88 airports had been cleared for landings. 

Then, on Monday, CEOs of The 10 largest US airlines, including Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest, and United Airlines – as well as shipping companies FedEx and UPS – signed and released a letter outlining their concerns. 

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies”. – Conglomerate of US airlines and shipping companies. 

“Even with the approvals granted by the FAA today” the letter read, “U.S. airlines will not be able to operate the vast majority of passenger and cargo flights due to the FAA's 5G-related flight restrictions unless action is taken prior to the planned Jan. 19 rollout”. 

The demands put forward by the airlines in the above letter are pretty straightforward: exclude 5G signals from “the approximate two miles of airport runways at affected airports as defined by the FAA on 19 January 2022″.

 “The federal government's current 5G rollout plan will have a devastating impact on aviation, negatively affecting an estimated 1.25 million United passengers, at least 15,000 flights and much-needed goods and tons of cargo traveling through more than 40 of the largest airports in the country annually” – Delta Airlines statement. 

A new list published on Wednesday – which cleared 62% of the US's commercial fleet to fly – lists Boeing's 777 as one of the models “one of the five cleared altimeters“.  

Telecommunications Companies Respond

Before the release of that list, on Tuesday AT&T and Verizon – the US telecommunications companies at the center of the 5G rollout – confirmed they would not deploy their service near affected airports for the time being. 

CBS reports that the companies were awarded contracts “worth tens of billions of dollars” early last year to operate 5G in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency bands. 

International Carriers Cancel US Flights

This Wednesday, the Guardian reported international carriers such as British Airways, Emirates, and Air India all grounded US-bound flights over fears their systems may also be disrupted. 

 Japan’s two largest airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have also altered their flight schedules, which has involved curtailing, canceling, or changing Boeing 777 flights directed towards the US. China Airlines (Taiwan) announced that it is also rescheduling flights. 

Germany and Korea’s respective flag carrier airlines – Lufthansa and Korean Air – are switching out their Boeing 777 models and pressing on with flights. 

Austrian Airlines – a subsidiary of Lufthansa – and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways are also making similar rearrangements. 

Why is 5G Causing Flight Disruption?

In short, airlines are worried that C-band 5G signals will interfere with signals used to help planes navigate during flights. 

Altimeters – devices that airlines use to measure the altitude their planes are flying at – have the potential to be severely affected by the signals. Altimeters are typically found on the bottom of aircraft and essentially bounce signals from the aircraft’s underbelly to the ground in order to measure the distance between them.

The signals provide vital data for pilots, especially when attempting bad-weather landings where visibility is low. 

5G technology broadly refers to wireless communications taking place at a specific frequency, 25-39 GHz. C-band 5G signals, however, are a special type of 5G signal that occur between 3.7-4.2 GHz – an improved offering on 4G (which occurs at 700-2500 MHz). 

However, most airline altimeter signals occur between 4.2 and 4.4 MHz – so the fears are that 5G signals on the higher-end will overlap with lower-end altimeter signals around 4.2 GHz. 

The older a plane is, the more damaging this could be. Older planes are more likely to have outdated band-pass filters (devices that allow electric waves lying within a certain frequency range to pass through, whilst blocking others) on their receivers, which will struggle to differentiate between 5G and Altimeter signals at similar frequencies. 

Will my business be affected by 5G flight disruptions?

It’s very possible. There are worries that the disruption will strand tens of thousands of Americans currently overseas on business trips and holidays, meaning some companies may be without vital members of staff. 

For instance, as many as 32,000 passengers scheduled to fly with Emirates over the next few days “will be completely inconvenienced as a result of flight cancellations.” said company president Tim Clark, who hit out at the last-minute decision making and mixed messages. 

Earlier this week, it seemed there may be supply chain issues for businesses in the US. Boeing 777s – as well as other affected aircraft models – are used to transport cargo for businesses all over the world. Despite 777s now being cleared, the FAA said in its Wednesday statement that “even with these approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected”. 

This means it’s entirely possible that US businesses waiting for valuable imports may experience delays due to the disruption. With so many flight schedules being changed and rerouted through different airports, it won’t be surprising if there are subsequent knock-on effects for both airports and flights that aren’t directly affected.

International Airlines have grounded flights bound for the US after fears over 5G’s potential impact on flight navigation systems. 

A collection of the major US Airlines have also decried the move, citing the unnecessary disruption it will cause workers traveling in and out of the country, with tens of thousands of US citizens thought to be affected.

US businesses and organizations relying on goods shipped from other countries have been warned that their supply chains could be affected due to the issues, as well as companies that haven't already set their employees up with the tools needed to work remotely.

What have the US Airlines Said?

On Sunday (Jan 16), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) cleared only 45% of the US's commercial fleet to fly – with Boeing 777s – thought to be most affected – not included. However, This approval opened up runways at 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G interference. Before this, none of the 88 airports had been cleared for landings. 

Then, on Monday, CEOs of The 10 largest US airlines, including Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest, and United Airlines – as well as shipping companies FedEx and UPS – signed and released a letter outlining their concerns. 

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies”. – Conglomerate of US airlines and shipping companies. 

“Even with the approvals granted by the FAA today” the letter read, “U.S. airlines will not be able to operate the vast majority of passenger and cargo flights due to the FAA's 5G-related flight restrictions unless action is taken prior to the planned Jan. 19 rollout”. 

The demands put forward by the airlines in the above letter are pretty straightforward: exclude 5G signals from “the approximate two miles of airport runways at affected airports as defined by the FAA on 19 January 2022″.

 “The federal government's current 5G rollout plan will have a devastating impact on aviation, negatively affecting an estimated 1.25 million United passengers, at least 15,000 flights and much-needed goods and tons of cargo traveling through more than 40 of the largest airports in the country annually” – Delta Airlines statement. 

A new list published on Wednesday – which cleared 62% of the US's commercial fleet to fly – lists Boeing's 777 as one of the models “one of the five cleared altimeters“.  

Telecommunications Companies Respond

Before the release of that list, on Tuesday AT&T and Verizon – the US telecommunications companies at the center of the 5G rollout – confirmed they would not deploy their service near affected airports for the time being. 

CBS reports that the companies were awarded contracts “worth tens of billions of dollars” early last year to operate 5G in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency bands. 

International Carriers Cancel US Flights

This Wednesday, the Guardian reported international carriers such as British Airways, Emirates, and Air India all grounded US-bound flights over fears their systems may also be disrupted. 

 Japan’s two largest airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have also altered their flight schedules, which has involved curtailing, canceling, or changing Boeing 777 flights directed towards the US. China Airlines (Taiwan) announced that it is also rescheduling flights. 

Germany and Korea’s respective flag carrier airlines – Lufthansa and Korean Air – are switching out their Boeing 777 models and pressing on with flights. 

Austrian Airlines – a subsidiary of Lufthansa – and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways are also making similar rearrangements. 

Why is 5G Causing Flight Disruption?

In short, airlines are worried that C-band 5G signals will interfere with signals used to help planes navigate during flights. 

Altimeters – devices that airlines use to measure the altitude their planes are flying at – have the potential to be severely affected by the signals. Altimeters are typically found on the bottom of aircraft and essentially bounce signals from the aircraft’s underbelly to the ground in order to measure the distance between them.

The signals provide vital data for pilots, especially when attempting bad-weather landings where visibility is low. 

5G technology broadly refers to wireless communications taking place at a specific frequency, 25-39 GHz. C-band 5G signals, however, are a special type of 5G signal that occur between 3.7-4.2 GHz – an improved offering on 4G (which occurs at 700-2500 MHz). 

However, most airline altimeter signals occur between 4.2 and 4.4 MHz – so the fears are that 5G signals on the higher-end will overlap with lower-end altimeter signals around 4.2 GHz. 

The older a plane is, the more damaging this could be. Older planes are more likely to have outdated band-pass filters (devices that allow electric waves lying within a certain frequency range to pass through, whilst blocking others) on their receivers, which will struggle to differentiate between 5G and Altimeter signals at similar frequencies. 

Will my business be affected by 5G flight disruptions?

It’s very possible. There are worries that the disruption will strand tens of thousands of Americans currently overseas on business trips and holidays, meaning some companies may be without vital members of staff. 

For instance, as many as 32,000 passengers scheduled to fly with Emirates over the next few days “will be completely inconvenienced as a result of flight cancellations.” said company president Tim Clark, who hit out at the last-minute decision making and mixed messages. 

Earlier this week, it seemed there may be supply chain issues for businesses in the US. Boeing 777s – as well as other affected aircraft models – are used to transport cargo for businesses all over the world. Despite 777s now being cleared, the FAA said in its Wednesday statement that “even with these approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected”. 

This means it’s entirely possible that US businesses waiting for valuable imports may experience delays due to the disruption. With so many flight schedules being changed and rerouted through different airports, it won’t be surprising if there are subsequent knock-on effects for both airports and flights that aren’t directly affected.

International Airlines have grounded flights bound for the US after fears over 5G’s potential impact on flight navigation systems. 

A collection of the major US Airlines have also decried the move, citing the unnecessary disruption it will cause workers traveling in and out of the country, with tens of thousands of US citizens thought to be affected.

US businesses and organizations relying on goods shipped from other countries have been warned that their supply chains could be affected due to the issues, as well as companies that haven't already set their employees up with the tools needed to work remotely.

What have the US Airlines Said?

On Sunday (Jan 16), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) cleared only 45% of the US's commercial fleet to fly – with Boeing 777s – thought to be most affected – not included. However, This approval opened up runways at 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G interference. Before this, none of the 88 airports had been cleared for landings. 

Then, on Monday, CEOs of The 10 largest US airlines, including Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest, and United Airlines – as well as shipping companies FedEx and UPS – signed and released a letter outlining their concerns. 

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies”. – Conglomerate of US airlines and shipping companies. 

“Even with the approvals granted by the FAA today” the letter read, “U.S. airlines will not be able to operate the vast majority of passenger and cargo flights due to the FAA's 5G-related flight restrictions unless action is taken prior to the planned Jan. 19 rollout”. 

The demands put forward by the airlines in the above letter are pretty straightforward: exclude 5G signals from “the approximate two miles of airport runways at affected airports as defined by the FAA on 19 January 2022″.

 “The federal government's current 5G rollout plan will have a devastating impact on aviation, negatively affecting an estimated 1.25 million United passengers, at least 15,000 flights and much-needed goods and tons of cargo traveling through more than 40 of the largest airports in the country annually” – Delta Airlines statement. 

A new list published on Wednesday – which cleared 62% of the US's commercial fleet to fly – lists Boeing's 777 as one of the models “one of the five cleared altimeters“.  

Telecommunications Companies Respond

Before the release of that list, on Tuesday AT&T and Verizon – the US telecommunications companies at the center of the 5G rollout – confirmed they would not deploy their service near affected airports for the time being. 

CBS reports that the companies were awarded contracts “worth tens of billions of dollars” early last year to operate 5G in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency bands. 

International Carriers Cancel US Flights

This Wednesday, the Guardian reported international carriers such as British Airways, Emirates, and Air India all grounded US-bound flights over fears their systems may also be disrupted. 

 Japan’s two largest airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have also altered their flight schedules, which has involved curtailing, canceling, or changing Boeing 777 flights directed towards the US. China Airlines (Taiwan) announced that it is also rescheduling flights. 

Germany and Korea’s respective flag carrier airlines – Lufthansa and Korean Air – are switching out their Boeing 777 models and pressing on with flights. 

Austrian Airlines – a subsidiary of Lufthansa – and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways are also making similar rearrangements. 

Why is 5G Causing Flight Disruption?

In short, airlines are worried that C-band 5G signals will interfere with signals used to help planes navigate during flights. 

Altimeters – devices that airlines use to measure the altitude their planes are flying at – have the potential to be severely affected by the signals. Altimeters are typically found on the bottom of aircraft and essentially bounce signals from the aircraft’s underbelly to the ground in order to measure the distance between them.

The signals provide vital data for pilots, especially when attempting bad-weather landings where visibility is low. 

5G technology broadly refers to wireless communications taking place at a specific frequency, 25-39 GHz. C-band 5G signals, however, are a special type of 5G signal that occur between 3.7-4.2 GHz – an improved offering on 4G (which occurs at 700-2500 MHz). 

However, most airline altimeter signals occur between 4.2 and 4.4 MHz – so the fears are that 5G signals on the higher-end will overlap with lower-end altimeter signals around 4.2 GHz. 

The older a plane is, the more damaging this could be. Older planes are more likely to have outdated band-pass filters (devices that allow electric waves lying within a certain frequency range to pass through, whilst blocking others) on their receivers, which will struggle to differentiate between 5G and Altimeter signals at similar frequencies. 

Will my business be affected by 5G flight disruptions?

It’s very possible. There are worries that the disruption will strand tens of thousands of Americans currently overseas on business trips and holidays, meaning some companies may be without vital members of staff. 

For instance, as many as 32,000 passengers scheduled to fly with Emirates over the next few days “will be completely inconvenienced as a result of flight cancellations.” said company president Tim Clark, who hit out at the last-minute decision making and mixed messages. 

Earlier this week, it seemed there may be supply chain issues for businesses in the US. Boeing 777s – as well as other affected aircraft models – are used to transport cargo for businesses all over the world. Despite 777s now being cleared, the FAA said in its Wednesday statement that “even with these approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected”. 

This means it’s entirely possible that US businesses waiting for valuable imports may experience delays due to the disruption. With so many flight schedules being changed and rerouted through different airports, it won’t be surprising if there are subsequent knock-on effects for both airports and flights that aren’t directly affected.

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Aaron Drapkin is a Senior Writer at Tech.co. He has been researching and writing about technology, politics, and society in print and online publications since graduating with a Philosophy degree from the University of Bristol three years ago. As a writer, Aaron takes a special interest in VPNs and project management software. He has been quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Computer Weekly, and the Silicon Republic speaking on various privacy and cybersecurity issues, and has articles published in Wired, Vice, Metro, The Week, and Politics.co.uk covering a wide range of topics.

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