Delta anticipates weather-related flight cancellations despite changes to 5G roll out

Delta Air Lines is planning for the possibility of weather-related cancellations caused by the deployment of new 5G service in the vicinity of dozens of U.S. airports, starting as early as Wednesday. The FAA, which regulates airlines, has issued numerous notices that restrict flight activity near airports where this new deployment of 5G service in the C-band spectrum could cause limited interference with altitude instruments on aircraft under various weather conditions that aircraft safely operate in today. As such, Delta is taking the necessary steps to ensure safety remains the priority in compliance with FAA guidelines.

Telecom companies agreed Tuesday to limit the scope of Wednesday’s planned 5G deployment and will delay implementation around certain U.S. airports. While this is a positive development toward preventing widespread disruptions to flight operations, some flight restrictions may remain.

“We appreciate the decision to limit the rollout of this service near airports,” E.V.P. and Chief of Operations John Laughter said Tuesday. “We believe industries can grow, innovate and co-exist for the benefit of consumers. That’s why we’re continuing to work with the FAA, the FCC and the telecom industry to find a practical solution that will allow for the rollout of 5G technology while preserving safety and avoiding flight disruptions.”

Delta is committed to proactively communicating with customers whenever possible about a cancellation or delay due to low visibility weather conditions that impact a 5G-affected airport.

  • Waivers: Delta will issue fare-difference waivers in advance of cancellations. Customers are encouraged to take advantage of those waivers as an option to reschedule their travel to a day and time that may not be impacted.
  • Automatic Rebooking: If a flight is canceled, affected customers will be automatically rebooked on the next available flight. Whenever possible, Delta teams strive to cancel flights far enough in advance to notify customers before arriving at the airport.
  • Itinerary Updates: Delta will send updates on itinerary changes directly to a mobile device or by email. Customers need to provide their contact information during booking or via My Trips online to enable this communication.
  • Self Service: Customers are encouraged to download and use the Fly Delta app or visit delta.com to check their flight status and manage their rebooking with convenient self-service options.

When cancellations become necessary as a last resort, Delta works to make changes that impact the fewest customers with the shortest delays. We apologize to customers for any disruption to their travel plans. As always, Delta people are working at airports, on board and behind the scenes at the airline’s Operations and Customer Center to help our customers get where they need as safely and quickly as possible, no matter the circumstances.

Delta has joined other airlines in seeking a delay by the Federal government of the deployment of this new 5G coverage into the C-band spectrum until more protections and assurances against potential interference with aircraft radio altimeters exist. Radio altimeters are a critical piece of technology that inform many aircraft functions and gives pilots what they need to fly airplanes safely, especially during critical phases of flight.

The impact on air travel could be immediate and significant, directly impacting passenger travel and cargo shipping. “The nation’s commerce will grind to a halt,” the CEOs of major carriers, including Delta CEO Ed Bastian, wrote in a letter coordinated by Airlines for America to government officials, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the chair of the Federal Communications Commission.

Delta has been evaluating its aircraft systems to ascertain whether those planes are safe to fly near airports where the 5G service is being rolled out. At the same time, we are committed to remaining fully compliant with the guidance of the FAA.

“Safety is, and always has been Delta’s number one priority – without it, nothing else matters,” Laughter said.