Emirates’ president has called the 5G flop the ‘most delinquent and irresponsible mess’ in his 50-year career and blamed the Biden administration and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for their failure to prevent it.
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Verizon and AT&T launched their 5G networks on Wednesday morning, with a total of 4,500 towers online to provide faster wireless access to their customers. It was decided to hold back on ten percent – about 500 towers – which are near airports due to the possibility that the towers’ frequencies could interfere with the signal on some planes.
AT&T and Verizon are using stronger 5G frequencies from their towers than countries with a successful 5G rollout. It has caused travel chaos, with airlines canceling some flights as a result of safety concerns and then rushing to restore them after AT&T and Verizon agreed at the last minute not to upgrade the airport towers.
Many airline passengers didn’t know the snafu and showed up at airports on Wednesday planning to board their flights, only to be informed that their flights had been canceled.
Following Tuesday’s announcement, Emirates canceled all flights to nine US cities, and some flights were later brought back to schedule, but not all. There are dozens of flights still on hold, including those operated by Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Air India, and Delta.
On Wednesday, Emirates’ president Sir Tim Clark spoke on Bloomberg about the shambolic situation and blamed it on the Biden administration, which allowed 5G to be rolled out without first addressing the safety concerns of the aviation industry.
‘I need to be as candid as I normally am, and say this is one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible issues, subjects I’ve seen in my aviation career because it involves organs of government, manufacturers, science, etc.’
Airlines executives, including representatives from American Airlines, JetBlue, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, FedEx Express and UPS, wrote a letter to the government urging it to defer the launch of 5G.
Buttigieg hasn’t commented on the snafu since yesterday. At noon on Wednesday, the FAA said that an update would be forthcoming, but no further details have been released.
The CEOs of airlines – who have lucrative government contracts – are pleased with the response so far.
John Laughter, Delta’s Chief of Operations, said: ‘We’re continuing to work with the FAA, the FCC and the telecom industry to find a practical solution that will allow for the rollout of 5G technology while preserving safety and avoiding flight disruptions.’
A spokesperson for United said: ‘We’re pleased the Biden Administration reached a compromise with AT&T and Verizon to avoid mass cancellations across the aviation industry. We look forward to a higher level of coordination between the regulators, telecom companies and the aviation industry to ensure that customers are not faced with disruptions going forward.’
Sir Tim Clark, however, said that the US government should have notified other countries that this could become an issue as early as possible.
‘The notion that, for instance, the United States government should sell its franchise for all the frequencies for a large amount of money.
‘Somebody should have told them at the time – that the risks and the dangers they placed in certain frequency uses around field, airfields, metropolitan fields that should have been done at the time.’
The airlines were only made aware on Monday of the risk posed by the signals, he said.
‘We were aware of a 5G issue. Okay. We are aware that everybody is trying to get 5G rolled out after all it’s the super-cool future of whatever it may be communication and information flow.
‘We were not aware that the power of the antennas in the United States have been doubled compared to what’s going on elsewhere.
‘We were not aware that the antenna themselves have been put into a vertical position rather than a slight slanting position, which then taken together compromise not only the radio altimeter systems but the flight control systems on the fly by wire aircraft.
‘So on that basis we took that decision late last night to suspend all our services until we had clarity.’
Several airlines, including British Airways, Emirates, All Nippon and Japan Airlines, canceled or diverted dozens of flights to and from the United States.
Air India canceled flights on Tuesday and has not yet found alternative transportation for passengers.
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Since the Boeing 777 flights were halted, the airlines – which are based in different time zones and heard the news at different times throughout the night – are scrambling to resume Boeing 777 flights.
The result is a growing headache at airports where cancellations, staff shortages, and a lack of planes at the right time and place aggravate the chaos.
On Wednesday, United Airlines has already canceled 20 flights into and out of Newark. All British Airways 777 flights from London to New York, Boston, and L.A.X were canceled, and passengers were rescheduled to other aircraft. Flights are being rescheduled to resume as soon as possible.