LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – It’s going to be a busy week at airports across the nation as Christmas comes during rising cases of COVID.
But the pandemic isn’t the only big concern for airlines. A technological and bureaucratic conflict could force them to cancel many flights in the new year.
A standoff between two federal agencies could have flight halting consequences for airlines caught in the middle.
Starting January 5, US airlines may have to stop using equipment that helps pilots land in bad weather or low visibility at more than 40 of the nation’s busiest airports following an FAA order prompted by concerns about possible interference from newly activated 5G cell phone towers.
The wireless industry insists there is not a safety issue, arguing: “The aviation industry’s fearmongering relies on completely discredited information and deliberate distortions of fact.”
AT&T and Verizon are pledging to reduce signal strength on cell towers near airports.
In a statement, the FAA says it “believes the expansion of 5G an aviation will safely co-exist” adding it “is working closely with the Federal Communications Commissions and wireless companies.”
The wireless industry has paid more than $80 billion to acquire the bandwidth to roll out 5G and opposes a delay.
But the airlines say without a solution, those flights will have to be delayed and canceled. It could impact an estimated 32 million flyers next year.