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Airlines halt flights to America over fears 5G signal could interfere with instruments


British Airways grounded flights. Photo: PA

British Airways grounded flights. Photo: PA

British Airways grounded flights. Photo: PA

British Airways cancelled flights to the US over concerns that signals from 5G mobile phone masts could endanger the lives of passengers.

The airline said it had grounded “a handful” of Boeing 777 services after it emerged signals could interfere with radio altimeters, the cockpit instrument that measures altitude.

Airlines took different approaches to the crisis affecting international travel. Emirates drastically cut its US-bound flights, while Air France said it would fly as normal.

Altimeters allow pilots to take off and land in poor visibility. If not functioning properly, pilots would be left effectively flying blind in bad weather.

US President Joe Biden has sought to head off a crisis by persuading mobile phone companies Verizon and AT&T to delay the roll-out of 5G services “around key airports”.

Mr Biden said the delay would avoid “potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel”. However, because British Airways (BA) flies to a lot of US airports, not all the airline’s destinations are covered by the delay.

That led to some passengers travelling to airports only to be told their flights have been cancelled or changed.

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 on to alternatives.”

The US 5G network operates on a radio frequency close to those used by aircraft altimeters. In the UK and Europe, 5G uses a lower frequency less likely to interfere with cockpit instruments.

Emirates cancelled flights to nine US cities. Its British president attacked Mr Biden’s administration over its handling of the situation, and the decision to continue with the roll-out of 5G.

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Tim Clark said: “This is one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible issues, subjects, I’ve seen in my aviation career.” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd, 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

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