First, COVID sick calls, now 5G rollout: Travelers face more flight cancellations
Airlines for weeks have warned of looming travel trouble due to Wednesday's 5G network rollout, predicting flight chaos in the US and the stranding of Americans overseas as planes were grounded over safety concerns.
The industry got a reprieve on Tuesday when AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay the rollout of 5G within two miles of airports. But that doesn't mean travelers are off the hook.
Several international airlines said they still plan to suspend some flights to the U.S. beginning Wednesday due to 5G deployment. The industry's concern: The frequency could interfere with airplane systems that measure altitude.
Air India announced on Twitter that it would cease flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
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Emirates is suspending flights to nine U.S. destinations “due to operational concerns” with the planned 5G deployment: Boston, Chicago, Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle. Its flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., will continue to operate as scheduled.
The airline said in a statement that it is working closely with airplane manufacturers and aviation authorities on the issue and hopes to resume the flights "as soon as possible.''
#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
Two Japanese airlines, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, also announced that they would cancel some of their flights.
“Boeing has notified us that 5G signals for U.S. mobile phones, which will begin operating in the U.S. on January 19, 2022, may interfere with the radio wave altimeter installed on the Boeing 777,” Japan Airlines said in a Tuesday statement. “We have decided not to use this aircraft-type on the U.S. mainland routes until safety is confirmed.”
All Nippon Airways canceled eight U.S. flights between Tuesday and Wednesday but plans to return to normal operations starting Thursday, according to an emailed statement.
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Overall, there were 978 canceled Wednesday flights to, from and within the U.S. canceled as of 2:50 p.m.ET, according to FlightAware.
Are US airlines canceling flights due to the 5G rollout?
Delta Air Lines warned late Tuesday that weather-related flight cancellations are a possibility as the 5G network rolls out.
That's because the airport reprieve granted by Verizon and AT&T only applies to certain U.S. airports.
Flights in and out of other airports, the airline said in a statement, could still be impacted by FAA rules that restrict flight activity under various weather conditions once 5G is switched on because of "limited interference with altitude instruments.''
"As such, Delta is taking the necessary steps to ensure safety remains the priority in compliance with FAA guidelines,'' Delta's statement said.
American Airlines has seen "minor operational impact," including some delays and four cancellations to its mainline fleet, according to a memo Chief Operating Officer David Seymour sent employees Wednesday.
But with the FAA rolling out updated operating requirements for various aircraft, Seymour said American should be able to operate its planes as normal "at the majority of airports" once the requirements are implemented. He expects more aircraft to receive updates from the FAA "very soon."
The FAA on Wednesday approved roughly 62% of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low visibility landings at airports where 5G has been deployed but warned that flights at "some airports" may still be affected.
The potential 5G flight fallout is on some travelers' minds.
In response to a Southwest Airlines tweet about a spring fare sale, someone posted this reply: "What about the whole 5G Wednesday thingy?''
The airline offered a generic reply: Check your flight status.
InsureMyTrip, a shopping site for travel insurance, said its customer service center has fielded calls from travelers wondering about coverage for 5G flight cancellations or delays.
What about the whole… 5G Wednesday thingy…? https://t.co/ujthiMTUTL
— 🪲𓉑𝓖𝓞𝓓𝓓𝓔𝓢𝓢𓉑🪲 (@GoSavageGIRLs) January 18, 2022
What happens if my flight is canceled due to 5G issues?
Travelers with upcoming flights need to keep an eye on their flight status, especially when flying internationally as the impact so far mainly impacts widebody jets.
Airlines are required to provide refunds, not just travel credits, if they cancel a flight.
Delta said it will issue travel waivers in advance of any 5G-related cancellations that will allow travelers to make flight changes without paying a fare difference. The airline and other major airlines already eliminated ticket change fees on most tickets during the pandemic.
The airline said it will also automatically rebook travelers whose flights are canceled on the next available flight. Passengers should check their email or Delta's mobile app for cancellation alerts.
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Contributing: Eve Chen
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Flight cancellations: Airlines make cuts as Verizon, AT&T roll out 5G