Your Flight Delays This Weekend May Be Caused by 5G

Not all airlines are ready to handle the new 5G frequencies

A passenger airplane is departing from Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, United States on January 19, 2022. Some airlines are not prepared for 5G networks to be switched on over the Fourth of July weekend.
Expect some delays by airlines who haven't updated their plane's altimeters yet
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

There have been way too many conspiracy theories about 5G to mention (including something, somehow, related to Covid-19 vaccines, because of course). And while there are some privacy issues and delays with the rollout, the cellular technology hasn’t caused any real-world harm. But it might cause some frustration this weekend, in the form of flight delays, for airline travelers.

Nearly 4.2 million people will take to the air this Fourth of July holiday weekend, a record number. But that’s also the same weekend U.S. cellular carriers will be able to use new 5G frequencies (known as 5G C-band). According to Fast Company, the problem is that this 5G C-band can interfere with a plane’s radio altimeters, and about 20% of planes have yet to be retrofitted with new altimeters (blame supply chain issues).

5G Calls Are Coming to Some Flights, For Better or Worse
The European Commission will be offering European airlines 5G connectivity, for both calls and data, in the near future.

The potential catastrophe? In cases of bad weather, the planes that have not been updated are even more likely to be delayed or canceled.

“We continue to see a significant number of aircraft still awaiting retrofit, including many operated by foreign air carriers,” wrote U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a letter to Airlines for America (A4A), per Reuters. “This means on bad-weather, low-visibility days in particular, there could be increased delays and cancellations.” Buttigieg also asked airlines to “adjust [their] schedules proactively” and asked that “passengers…not bear the brunt of any airline’s inability to equip sufficient aircraft to be able to operate safely in the 5G C-band environment,” which, hey, good luck with that.

So, what is the solution? Besides flight insurance and checking with your airline about potential delays or cancellations on their end, maybe check what actual airplane you’ll be boarding. For example, as of now, not all Delta narrowbody aircraft have the updated altimeters, and a good resource for finding out the type of plane is via Google Flights.


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