Nigeria passengers face hitches as airlines suspend US flights over 5G rollout - PUNCH
JANUARY 20, 2022
BY Oyetunji Abioye, Edidiong Ikpoto with agency reports
United States-bound passengers departing Nigeria are likely to face connection delays in Europe, Middle East and other major hubs’ airport as major airlines cancelled and rescheduled their flights to the United over 5G rollout in the US on Wednesday.
Major international airlines announced suspension and modification of flights to the US amid uncertainty about potential interference between new 5G cell phone services and critical airplane technologies, according to a CNN report.
Emirates, Air India, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa and British Airways all announced changes to some flights, citing the 5G issue.
Emirates said it would suspend flights into nine US airports: Boston, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle. It said it would continue flying into New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, Los Angeles International and Washington Dulles.
“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible,” Emirates said in its statement.
Germany’s Lufthansa canceled a flight between Frankfurt and Miami. It said it would swap Boeing 747-8 aircraft for 747-400s on flights from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.
A spokesperson for British Airways told CNN Business that it “had to make a handful of cancellations” because a decision by telecom operators to delay activating the new 5G service at some locations didn’t cover all the airports the airline serves.
Other carriers including Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM said they had not canceled any flights but were monitoring the situation.
Delta Air Lines said it was planning for the possibility of weather-related cancellations as early as Wednesday due to the new 5G service in the vicinity of dozens of US airports.
According to airport and airline sources in Nigeria, the development is likely to affect US-bound Nigeria passengers departing the country in coming days.
While Delta Airlines and United Airlines, which fly directly from Nigeria to US, were yet to announce any changes to their flights as of Wednesday, travel agency and airport officials said travellers heading to the US through the Middle East and Europe would likely face some delays with their connection flights.
Also, a BA official in Nigeria said Lagos-London and Abuja-London flights would operate on schedule but noted that US-bound passengers who might be affected by any potential delays in London would be contacted by the airline.
A significant number of Nigerians travel to US through Europe, Middle East and other Africa countries flying carriers from the continents.
Local travel experts said more delays and cancellations are expected in coming days as the US announces fresh development around the 5G rollout.
A statement quoted a BA spokesperson as saying, “We’ve been working closely with airlines across the world to call for a solution, and last night the US wireless networks agreed to scale back plans for their 5G networks near key airports.
“There’s still some uncertainty, and we’ve had to make a small number of cancellations. But, we’ve added some additional resilience to our schedule by proactively planning aircraft changes wherever possible and we’re offering alternative options to affected customers, who have been contacted.
“We’ll share more information as soon as we get more updates. Customers are reminded to add their contact details to bookings so they get updates.”
US transportation regulators had already been concerned that the version of 5G that was scheduled to be switched on could interfere with some airplane instruments, and many aviation industry groups shared those fears — despite reassurances from federal telecom regulators and wireless carriers.
Specifically, the US Federal Aviation Administration has been worried that 5G cellular antennas near some airports — not air travelers’ mobile devices — could throw off readings from some aircraft equipment designed to tell pilots how far they are from the ground. Those systems, known as radar altimeters, are used throughout a flight and are considered critical equipment.
In December, the FAA issued an urgent order forbidding pilots from using the potentially affected altimeters around airports where low-visibility conditions would otherwise require them. That new rule could keep planes from getting to some airports in certain circumstances, because pilots would be unable to land using instruments alone.