Etihad US flights operating despite 5G concerns as Emirates and Air India cancel services

The national airline of the UAE continues to operate to Washington, New York and Chicago

Etihad's US flights are not impacted by the introduction of 5G networks near US airport. Unsplash / Fabien Joy
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Etihad Airways’s services to the US are not currently affected by the introduction of 5G networks.

The national airline of the UAE will continue to operate flights to New York, Washington DC and Chicago as scheduled, the airline said on Wednesday.

Several other airlines, including Emirates, have temporarily halted flights to the US amid concerns that new C-band 5G wireless networks might interfere with sensitive safety equipment on planes.

“Etihad Airways currently operates passenger services to New York, Washington DC and Chicago on Boeing 787 Dreamliners,” an Etihad representative told The National.

“The planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US does not currently affect our passenger flight operations.”

Emirates, Air India and Japan Airlines cancel some US flights

On Tuesday, major international airlines rushed to cancel or suspend flights to the US ahead of the planned introduction 5G wireless on Wednesday.

The high-speed 5G network uses C-band frequencies that are similar to those used by radio altimeters on aircraft.

Emirates suspended flights to nine of its 12 destinations in the states. The Dubai airline said “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US at certain airports” was the reason for the last-minute flight suspensions.

The airline said it is working closely with plane manufacturers and aviation authorities on the issue and hopes to resume the flights “as soon as possible".

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

Other international airlines, including Air India, All Nippon and Japan Airlines, have also temporarily suspended, changed or cancelled some flights to airports in the US ahead of the network update.

More weather-related flight cancellations expected

US airlines have not announced major flight cancellations but Delta, one of the country’s largest carriers, said that weather-related cancellations are a possibility as the 5G network is introduced on Wednesday.

This is despite wireless networks agreeing to delay the 5G launch in some parts of the country.

As this reprieve does not apply to all airports in the US, flights in and out of other airports could still be affected by rules set by the Federal Aviation Administration that restrict flying under various weather conditions once 5G is switched on.

The FAA, which regulates airlines in the US, said it would continue to work with wireless companies as they roll-out the new network.

“With safety as its core mission, the FAA will continue to ensure that the travelling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G. The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations,” said the administration.

It has already cleared an “estimated 45 per cent of the US commercial fleet” to perform low-visibility landings at airports where 5G C-band is being deployed. The FAA has also approved two radio altimeter models widely installed in Boeing and Airbus jets.

“Even with these new approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected,” said the FAA.

Travellers flying to the US should confirm flight status

Travellers with scheduled flights to and from the US should reconfirm travel plans, especially when flying internationally.

Emirates advised affected passengers that they do not need to contact the airline immediately.

Instead, the airline advises travellers to get in touch with their travel agent or booking office to make new travel plans when US flights resume. It’s not yet clear how long flight cancellations will be in place as airlines await further guidance from the FAA.

The C-band 5G saga is the latest obstacle to hit the aviation industry after months spent battling travel restrictions, border closures and a lack of travel demand owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Updated: June 08, 2023, 6:24 AM