Major international airlines cancel some US flights amid 5G rollout

After Emirates, Japan Airlines and ANA cancelled flights to certain US airports on Tuesday, the FAA has approved more planes for low-visibility landings.

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Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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Airplane with Emirates livery

Emirates is moving some of its US flights onto an Airbus A380 instead.

Emirates Airlines

Major international airlines including Emirates, Japan Airlines and ANA canceled flights into the US due to concerns about 5G deployments planned for Jan. 19. Emirates flights into San Francisco, Dallas Fort Worth, Orlando, Seattle, Miami, Newark, Houston, Chicago and Boston were all affected by the decision Tuesday.

The flights are being suspended "until further notice," Emirates said Tuesday. "Customers holding tickets with the final destination to any of the above will not be accepted at the point of origin." Those customers can hold onto their tickets and "get in touch with their travel agent or booking office" once flights resume to those destinations.

Emirates flights into JFK, LAX and Washington DC will continue as normal.

Read more: AT&T, Verizon adjust 5G launch plans around airports as carriers blast FAA over delays

Japan Airlines added that the C-band 5G signals being switched on by US carriers on Jan. 19 "may interfere with the radio wave altimeter installed on the Boeing 777." It cancelled flights into the US that could not be changed to a Boeing 787 plane, with customers able to check on JAL's website to see if their flight is affected. ANA also canceled flights to the US that could not be switched to a Boeing 787.

Airlines on Monday had warned of significant travel disruptions if the launch of C-band 5G proceeded on Wednesday, but AT&T and Verizon have said their 5G launches will go ahead -- though with some modifications.

AT&T will "temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways," a spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the Federal Aviation Administration has "not utilized the two years they've had to responsibly plan for this deployment."

"We are frustrated by the FAA's inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it to do so in a timely manner," the AT&T statement said. Verizon made a similar statement Tuesday.

"We recognize the economic importance of expanding 5G," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement Tuesday. "The complex US airspace leads the world in safety because of our high standards for aviation, and we will maintain this commitment as wireless companies deploy 5G."

FAA clears more planes for low-visibility landings

The FAA on Wednesday said it has issued new approvals that will allow around 62% of commercial planes in the US to make "low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies deployed 5G C-band."

"Even with these approvals, flights at some airports may still be affected," the FAA added.

Japan Airlines said it will resume flights on its Boeing 777 planes to the US as a result, while ANA has taken down the page where it previously detailed cancelled flights. Emirates has since clarified three return flights will continue running on a different airplane, including Dubai to Boston, San Francisco and Houston on Jan. 20 with the return services on Jan. 21. 

Emirates will still be suspending flights to Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Miami, Newark, Orlando and Seattle on Jan. 20, however.