Issue No. 847

The 5G Crisis That Wasn't

U.S. Airlines Warned of Chaos But Delaying The 5G Network Bought Them Time

Pushing Back: Inside The Issue

The U.S. air transport system would grind to halt, stranding tens of thousands of passengers all over the world and further disrupting the supply chain by critically disrupting cargo. At least, that's what the airline industry predicted would happen if AT&T and Verizon pressed ahead with their 5G wireless networks. The telecommunications companies agreed — grudgingly — to a further delay to let the Federal Aviation Administration and the aviation sector work out where interference with radio altimeters might occur and on what aircraft. By the end of last week, most aircraft types and major airports had been cleared, so the crisis was averted. Partially. Regional airlines still don't have clarity on much of the smaller airports they operate to and on certain fleet types. So now, the U.S. has a mostly functioning air transport system, but slower mobile internet.

American and United reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2021 earnings. The Omicron variant hit both. United, which had expected to fly more capacity this year than in 2019, revised its guidance and now plans to operate less capacity than 2019. But leaders at both airlines believe Covid-19 is on its way to becoming an endemic disease.

The other thing to note? An era ends. Last week's call was American CEO Doug Parker's last at the helm of the airline. It was his 107th consecutive quarterly call, counting from when he was America West's chief financial officer.

The Airline Weekly Lounge Podcast

The rollout of 5G wireless technology threatened major disruptions to the U.S. air transport system until it didn’t, in a crisis that J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker likened to Y2K. Hosts Madhu Unnikrishnan and Edward “Ned” Russell also discuss the pilot shortage, and what they expected from American Airlines and United Airlines 2021 results. Listen to the episode here, and a full archive of the 'Lounge is here.

Weekly Skies

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Feature Story

Chaos was averted last week when two U.S. wireless companies agreed to delay turning on their 5G mobile networks near certain airports, after airlines, airports, and even the president of United States warned that doing so could cripple the national…