The CEOs of American and United Airlines said the industry will likely avoid future disruptions from the ongoing 5G service rollout that triggered confusion and safety concerns this week.
Major US airlines reported few flight disruptions after AT&T and Verizon agreed to limit their 5G launch near major airports. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said there was unlikely to be “material disruption going forward” for air travel due to 5G-related concerns.
“Because the telecoms have agreed to not to fully turn on antennas within a certain radius of airports, we’re fully comfortable now and airplanes are flying in and out of all airports without any sort of real disruption,” Parker told CNBC.
Parker added that flight disruptions would have been “much worse” had the telecom firms not agreed to limit their rollout.
Concerns about the 5G rollout initially sparked chaos this week, with US airlines warning the launch would upend flight schedules and commerce. The issue stemmed from fears that 5G signals could interfere with instruments used to measure altitude on some planes, including the widely used Boeing 777.
The safety issues led several international airlines to cancel or change schedules for US-bound flights, though many have since resumed normal operations.
“This hasn’t been our finest hour as a country in terms of how we got to this point, but the good news is, the right people are talking to each other, sharing the right information now,” Parker said. “I feel really confident that as we move forward, we’re not going to see issue like this.”
United Airlines CEO John Kirby said he wished safety concerns were “resolved sooner.” Kirby also thanked the CEOs of Verizon and AT&T for agreeing to the delay, noting the 5G signals near airports would have “had catastrophic impacts” for flights.
“The good news is now we are in a position where I think there’s a pretty clear roadmap to get this solved where we can have fulsome rollout of 5G for the telecoms without impacting aviation,” Kirby told CNBC.
Tim Clark, president of Dubai-based airline Emirates, was critical of the US’s handling of the 5G launch, calling it “utterly irresponsible.” He said Emirates was unaware safety issues were unresolved until shortly before signals were set to be deployed.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it has now cleared “estimated 78 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports where wireless companies deployed 5G C-band.”