Published on : Tuesday, January 18, 2022
The chief executives of America’s largest airlines warned of a “catastrophic disruption” to travel and shipping operations if telecommunication firms roll out their 5G technology as planned Wednesday without limiting the technology near US airports.
Verizon and AT&T have already twice delayed the launch of their new C-Band 5G service, due to warnings from airlines and aircraft manufacturers concerned that the new system might interfere with the devices planes use to measure altitude.
The CEOs said that they are writing with urgency to request that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate two miles of airport runways as defined by the FAA on January 19, 2022.
The executives, writing to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other US government officials, highlighted the risk of “economic calamity” should Verizon and AT&T proceed with deploying the new technology before the necessary upgrades and changes have been made to aviation equipment.
To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt, they said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday it had approved some transponders to be safely operated within areas where 5G will be deployed, clearing as many as 48 of the 88 airports most directly affected by 5G C-Band interference.
But the airlines are worried that remaining limitations at those airports, as well as a large amount of equipment still uncertified, could trigger a crisis including the grounding of thousands of flights.
In addition to the transport secretary, their letter was addressed to the head of the FAA, the head of the Federal Communications Commission and the White House’s National Economic Council.|
US airlines also have protested against the potential costs incurred.
‘Immediate’ intervention sought
The executives called on authorities to take whatever action necessary to ensure that 5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption.
The letter was signed by CEOs of major airlines including American, United, Delta and Southwest, as well as the leaders of shipping giants FedEx and UPS.
Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies, they wrote.
In addition to the chaos caused domestically, the letter continues, the lack of certified planes could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas.
The FAA released a brief statement Monday apparently seeking to allay concerns about the 5G rollout’s impact on aviation, but it stopped short of declaring any concrete next steps in the process.
With safety as its core mission, the FAA will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G, the agency said.
Verizon and AT&T won contracts worth tens of billions of dollars last February to operate 5G in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency bands, and the rollout of the service was due to begin on December 5.
Unless the major telecommunications companies are blocked by federal regulators or reach an agreement with the airlines, they are now scheduled to turn on their 5G service nationwide on January 19.
Airlines seek end to mandatory COVID-19 testing of vaccinated passengers on arrival
Canada’s largest airlines and its busiest airport asked the federal government Monday to drop its rule requiring vaccinated travellers to test on arrival for COVID-19.
In a letter to Ottawa and the Ontario government, Air Canada, WestJet and Toronto’s Pearson International Airport called for a shift of testing capacity from airports to the community.
As the government has ramped up testing at airports for international arrivals, we have seen frontline workers struggle to get PCR tests, and lab processing capacity decrease significantly, the letter said, citing schools, hospitals and long-term care homes as particular priorities.
There is a growing discrepancy between resources allocated to asymptomatic travellers and to those who need it most.
Argue it’s not the best use of limited resources
As COVID-19 cases have surged in recent weeks, many provinces have decided to restrict molecular testing to those at a higher risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19 or who are in settings where the virus could spread more quickly.
Travellers coming to Canada must present a pre-arrival negative molecular test result for COVID-19.
Once they touch down, those coming from any country other than the United States are tested again and must isolate until they get their results.
Those coming from the U.S. are tested randomly.
The airlines and airport say testing international arrivals fails to make the best use of Canada’s limited testing resources, and point to the United Kingdom and Israel as examples to follow — though Israel still requires on-arrival testing of vaccinated passengers, unlike the U.K.
About 1.08 per cent of fully vaccinated air travellers from abroad who were tested between Nov. 28 and Dec. 25 yielded a positive COVID-19 test result, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
While the positivity rate ticked up to just over two per cent in the week before Christmas, the figure falls far short of the national average positivity rate of 28 per cent highlighted by the agency Friday.
Border-town mayors call for end to Canada’s COVID-19 test requirement for travellers
How some Canadian travellers are getting free COVID-19 tests in the U.S. to return home
Air Canada, WestJet and Pearson want the government to revert to random arrival testing of international travellers and only require isolation for those arriving from overseas if they exhibit symptoms or test positive.
Urged to redeploy testing capacity
The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable also urged the federal government Friday to redeploy its testing capacity and return to random testing for international passengers.
Many of those tests are being sent to other provinces for processing.
And the processing time, which is supposed to have a standard delivery of three days, is exceeding that, Tourism Industry Association of Canada president Beth Potter said in phone interview.
Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alberta, stressed the value of testing as way to monitor new variants.
Little value, experts say
But mandatory airport testing adds little “immediate value” to preventing the spread of Omicron, Saxinger added.
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that the policy will be evaluated.
Tracking every case isn’t really necessary for a surveillance perspective, she told reporters in Ottawa.