The largest U.S. airlines have warned against the upcoming deployment of Verizon and AT&T 5G mobile internet technology, saying that the move will cause “major disruption” to flights across the country.
After significant friction, Verizon and AT&T 5G services are scheduled to launch on Wednesday, with airlines saying that the technology will cause a “completely avoidable economic calamity.” The concern relates to the fear that C-band 5G signals will disrupt airline navigation systems, which are particularly crucial when visibility is limited due to bad weather.
“Despite the recent collaboration and data sharing between the telecommunications industry, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the aviation industry, commercial aviation in the United States is facing major disruption of the traveling and shipping public based on our evaluation of the data and discussions that have been ongoing to resolve the issue of how best to deploy 5G ‘C-band’ in a safe manner around U.S. airports,” wrote the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others in a letter to U.S. aviation authorities. “We are writing with urgency to request that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles of airport runways at affected airports as defined by the FAA on January 19, 2022. This will allow 5G to be deployed while avoiding harmful impacts on the aviation industry, traveling public, supply chain, vaccine distribution, our workforce and broader economy. We further ask that the FAA immediately identify those base stations closest to key airport runways that need to be addressed to ensure safety and avoid disruption in a manner that is narrowly focused and consistent with the agreement established on January 3, 2022.”
“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” the letter said.
The airline leaders then explained that “[t]he harm that will result from deployment on January 19 is substantially worse than we originally anticipated for two key reasons.”
“First, we understand that most of the 50 large airports that were identified by the FAA for relief will still be subject to flight restrictions on January 19. The FAA’s statement yesterday minimizes the fact that they are not granting relief to airports that are used by most of the traveling and shipping public. Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded. This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions or delays,” the letter explained.
“Second, flight restrictions will not be limited to poor weather operations. Because radio altimeters provide critical information to other safety and navigation systems in modern airplanes, multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable causing a much larger problem than what we knew on January 5, 2022. Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded. In addition to the chaos caused domestically, this lack of usable widebody aircraft could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas,” the letter continued.
“The ripple effects across both passenger and cargo operations, our workforce and the broader economy are simply incalculable. Every one of the passenger and cargo carriers will be struggling to get people, shipments, planes and crews where they need to be. To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt,” the letter concluded. “Give the short time frame and the exigency of this completely avoidable economic calamity, we respectfully request you support and take whatever action necessary to ensure that 5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption. We stand ready and eager to continue our work with the U.S. government and mobile wireless providers on finding a solution set that allows 5G to expand to the ‘C-Band’ while also protecting aviation from devastating operational restrictions. However, immediate action is necessary to provide ample time for those discussions to move forward in any meaningful way.”
The letter was signed by Ben Minicucci, CEO of Alaska Air Group, Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue Airways, Brendan Canavan, President of UPS Airlines, W. Douglas Parker, Chairman and CEO of American Airlines, Scot Struminger, EVP and CEO of Aviation at FedEx Express, Gary C. Kelly, Chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, Nicholas E. Calio, President and CEO of Airlines for America, John W. Dietrich, President and CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide, Peter R. Ingram, President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, and Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines Holdings.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.