Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has warned that looming 5G upgrade deadlines could cause flight cancellations this summer.
“There’s a real risk of delays or cancellations,” Buttigieg said. “this represents one of the biggest – probably the biggest – foreseeable problem affecting performance this summer.”
Buttigieg is referring to the July 1st deadline for airlines to update their equipment in accordance with US telecom companies plan to improve their 5G services.
“Specifically, there’s concern that 5G signals could affect some aircraft’s radar altimeters – sensors which measures how high an aircraft is above the ground,” Insider reported. The altimeter is especially important for flying in low-visibility conditions, or instrument-flying conditions. Accordingly, planes that have not yet been updated after July 1st, won’t be cleared to land in certain low-visibility weather conditions.
In total, the updates will cost more than $638 million. And to date, 20 percent of domestic planes, and 35 percent of international planes, have still not complied with the new 5G requirements. Delta Air Lines, for example, still has to update 190 of its 900 airplanes.
“Many Delta teams have been working to insulate any additional delays from our customers and people through strategic aircraft routing,” a Delta spokesperson said. “While we expect minimal operational impact, we continue to work with our supplier to see that every Delta aircraft is equipped with updated radio altimeters.”
Pete Buttigieg is likely holding his breath
Buttigieg wants to avoid anything resembling the fiasco he dealt with last December. In December, Southwest Airlines cancelled, like, a lot of their flights. Here are the numbers: 43 percent of flights cancelled on Christmas Day; 71 percent of flights cancelled on December 26; 64 percent of flights cancelled on December 27; 61 percent of flights cancelled on the 28th; 58 percent on the 29th. In total, Southwest cancelled over 15,000 flights. Fifteen thousand. It was a debacle, leaving thousands of passengers stranded during the holidays. And the problem for Buttigieg is that he was warned in advanced, and implored to take measures to prevent such a thing from happening. He declined.
In August, four months before the Southwest fiasco, 38 Attorney Generals said that the Department of Transportation was leaving a “vacuum of oversight” that “allows airlines to mistreat consumers and leaves consumers without effective redress” with respect to flight cancellations.
“One week after the letter was sent, Buttigieg went on late-night TV and promised travelers all would be well for Christmas,” The New York Post reported.
“I think it’s going to get better by the holidays,” Buttigieg said on “The Late Late Show” with James Corden. “We’re really pressing the airlines to deliver better service.”
On December 16th, 34 Attorney Generals wrote Buttigieg directly, pleading with the Transportation Secretary to “impose significant fines for cancellations and extended delays that are not weather-related or otherwise unavoidable.”
Buttigieg declined. And contrary to his late night promises, that things would get better by the holidays, things indeed got worse. Worse than they had ever been before or since.
The incident suggested that Buttigieg, who had zero experience in transportation before being appointed to run the Department of Transportation, was out of his league. And perhaps more importantly, the incident suggested that Buttigieg, a mainstreamer in progressive’s clothing, was always going to side in favor of the corporation over the consumer.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.