Buttigieg Warns 5G Change Could Delay Flights

All airlines won't meet July 1 deadline
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2023 4:10 PM CDT
Buttigieg Warns 5G Change Could Delay Flights
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg tours Yokohama Port in Tokyo on Monday.   (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Airlines and industry groups have warned the federal government that some carriers are having trouble being ready for a 5G switchover by the July 1 deadline, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is in turn warning travelers they could run into snags this summer. "There's a real risk of delays or cancellations," Buttigieg told the Wall Street Journal. "This represents one of the biggest—probably the biggest—foreseeable problem affecting performance this summer." As always, weather will help decide how big a problem this is.

Airlines must retrofit their equipment to ensure 5G wireless doesn't cause interference by the deadline, which is when wireless companies serving the US plan to dial up power levels for their service. If carriers haven't made the equipment change, they won't receive clearance to land in under certain weather conditions. Wireless companies disagree, but air safety officials say the 5G signals could affect the radio waves that help measure a plane's altitude, necessary for landing in poor weather. More than 80% of planes used in domestic flights in the US have radar altimeters that won't be affected by 5G signals, per the Journal.

AT&T and Verizon have already postponed their changes near certain airports to give airlines more time. Buttigieg said he's asked the airlines to hurry; the industry says supply chain issues have slowed the switchover. "Carriers have repeatedly communicated this reality to the government," Airlines for America said in a statement. International airlines they intend to use only upgraded planes on flights to the US. Southwest and United are among those that say they'll be ready, but other airlines say they could be months away; JetBlue said it needs till October. The International Air Transport Association says the change will cost airlines almost $638 million. (Read more airline industry stories.)

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