HomeTrading NewsAirlines Warn of Crippling Flight Disruptions if New 5G Rollout Isn’t Delayed

Airlines Warn of Crippling Flight Disruptions if New 5G Rollout Isn’t Delayed

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After AT&T and Verizon Communications refused requests from the U.S. government to delay the Jan. 5 launch of new 5G services, the Airlines for America trade group warned of increased flight disruptions. 

The trade group represents airlines such as American (ticker: AAL) and Delta (DAL), and freight carriers FedEx (FDX) and United Parcel Service (UPS).

“The airworthiness directive issued by the FAA on Dec. 7 identified safety concerns and potential restrictions that will be highly disruptive to the National Airspace System, air travelers, the shipping public, the global supply chain and our employees,” said Carter Yang, managing director of industry communications for Airlines for America, in an emailed statement to Barron’s.

“Without appropriate mitigations, the 5G deployment around airports could disrupt as many as 345,000 passenger flights — impacting 32 million travelers — in addition to 5,400 cargo flights each year in the form of delays, diversions or cancelations,” Yang added.

Airlines for America last week filed an emergency petition with the Federal Communications Commission to stop the deployment of 5G technologies near 135 airports.

AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) on Sunday said they could pause the rollout of 5G services by six months to match limits imposed by regulators in France, The Wall Street Journal reported. Services were expected to be launched in as many as 46 of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States.

“If U.S. airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States,” the chief executives wrote in a letter that was reviewed by the Journal.

AT&T shares rose 0.5% to $24.71 in premarket trading Monday, while Verizon was up 0.2%.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Steve Dickson, the Federal Aviation Administration’s administrator, asked AT&T and Verizon on Friday to postpone the commercial deployment of 5G services by “no more than two weeks” over aviation safety concerns, particularly over possible interference with airplanes’ radio systems.

“New headaches could come in the new year for air travelers and the shipping public if the FCC and FAA don’t facilitate a smooth resolution for 5G implementation,” Airlines for America said in a tweet just before Christmas. “Safe aviation and 5G CAN safely coexist.”

Write to Joe Woelfel at joseph.woelfel@barrons.com

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