British Airways has begun cancelling flights to America over concerns signals from 5G mobile phone masts could endanger the lives of passengers.
The UK flag carrier has been forced to axe “a handful” of Boeing 777 services after it emerged that 5G signals could interfere with cockpit altimeters, which measure the aircraft’s height.
Altimeters are a crucial piece of equipment that allow pilots to take-off and land in bad weather and when visibility is poor. As a precaution, BA has switched other services to Airbus aircraft.
Germany’s Lufthansa, Emirates, Japan Airlines, ANA and Air India are among a slew of carriers to have also cancelled or changed US-inbound flights.
Air France said it planned to continue flying its Boeing 777s into American airports, without further explanation.
President Joe Biden has sought to head off a crisis by persuading US telecoms firms Verizon and AT&T to delay the rollout of 5G services “around key airports”.
The White House said: “This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90pc of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled.”
The move, however, will not cover all of the airports in America that BA flies to.
A spokesman for BA said: “Safety is always our priority and although we had to cancel a handful of services, we’ve done everything we can to minimise inconvenience for our customers. We’ve changed the aircraft operating some of our flights and rebooked those on cancelled services onto alternatives.
“We’re disappointed that, like other airlines, some of our customers’ travel plans have been disrupted.”
Verizon chief executive, Hans Vestberg, said the ban on 5G masts near some US airports would have little impact on the launch of services.
“In a very small portion of our network, we’re not turning on some radios close to airports. That has been sort of our discussion with the airline industry to see that we’re having a safe flight and so they have time to go through the technology, and the frequencies and all of that. And that they’re doing. And I’m confident that this is going to go fast,” he told CNBC.
Emirates said it would continue to run services to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.
However, it said that “due to operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US at certain airports” it had cancelled flights to nine locations until further notice.
“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.”
Japan’s ANA said: “Boeing has announced flight restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft, and we have cancelled or changed the aircraft for some flights to/from the US based on the announcement by Boeing.”