Emirates (EK, Dubai Int'l) and Air India (AI, Mumbai Int'l) have suspended some of their scheduled flights to the United States due to safety concerns relating to the activation of 5G broadband, even though both telecoms involved in the market agreed to a longer deferral around airports.

The Emirati carrier said it would indefinitely suspend services to Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston Intc'l, Miami Int'l, New York Newark, Orlando Int'l, San Francisco, CA, and Seattle Tacoma Int'l, while flights to New York JFK, Washington Dulles, and Los Angeles Int'l would continue. In turn, Air India suspended services from Delhi Int'l to JFK, San Francisco, and Chicago, as well as from Mumbai Int'l to Newark.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on January 16, 2022, that it had cleared just 45% of all commercial aircraft operated in the country for low-visibility procedures in proximity to active 5G antennae.

The FAA said the clearance covered "some" B737, B747, B757, B767, MD-10, MD-11, A310, A319, A320, A321, A330, and A350 models. Notably, the list omitted B787 Family jets. Just a day earlier, the regulator warned that 5G interference "with the [B787's] radio altimeter could prevent engine and braking systems from transitioning to landing mode, which could prevent an aircraft from stopping on the runway". The list also omits B777 Family aircraft.

Previously, the FAA issued around 1,500 NOTAMs, each of them covering a single landing procedure potentially affected by 5G interference. Even though the regulator said it expected "to issue more approvals in the coming days", as of January 18 - a day before the already twice-deferred roll out of 5G technology in the US - it had yet to do so. The deployment may also impact around 9,000 helicopters operating in the US, including medevac and emergency services.

The FAA has also authorised low-visibility landings at 48 out of 88 most affected airports but did not identify the airports that were not authorised.

Facing uncertainty about potential interference, US airlines have pleaded with the US government to delay the use of 5G technology around affected airports.

"Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies... Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the travelling and shipping public will essentially be grounded," industry lobby group Airlines for America (A4A) said in a letter to the US White House, the Secretary of Transportation, the FAA, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The airlines collectively appealed to US regulators to restrict the use of 5G broadband technology to everywhere except for a two-mile radius around the 50 preidentified airports. They stressed that the interference would not be limited to low-visibility procedures, as radio altimeters are also used in fair conditions. Without a further delay, the airlines warned, a significant part of their fleets could be grounded, creating "incalculable ripple effects" to the economy and a "completely avoidable economic calamity".

After last-minute talks on January 18, two US telecom operators, AT&T and Verizon, agreed to defer the deployment of the 5G technology around some airports, even as it goes live elsewhere in the country.

"At our sole discretion, we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment,” AT&T said, without disclosing the names of airports where the technology would be delayed or the length of the deferral.

A4A said it welcomed the decision as it would allow all stakeholders to find a way to safely deploy the 5G broadband around airports.

AT&T and Verizon were initially scheduled to activate their 5G networks nationwide in early December 2021 only to delay those plans to January 5 and then, again, to January 19, on the back of airline industry concerns.. The FAA and the two firms subsequently agreed to a six-month deferral around the 50 most-affected airports.

The problem is specific to the US due to the higher power and different architecture of 5G antennae in the country.