Fourth of July 2023: Record-breaking travelers, 5G deadline could mean holiday flight delays

AAA Texas says record numbers of Texans will fly this 4th of July weekend, up 12% more than last year. The U.S. Department of Transportation warns that cell phone carriers' 5G signals could cause flight delays this weekend.

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Starting July 1, wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon can boost their 5G signals.      

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warns that 20% of planes won't be allowed to fly in low visibility because they still haven't been retrofitted with equipment to deal with potential 5G interference.  80% of air carriers have new altimeters to prevent interference.  But some airlines say they've had trouble getting them for all planes, due to shipping delays.

Delta Air Lines says about 190 of its more than 900 planes won’t be equipped by the deadline but will route them to limit disruptions.  American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Frontier Airlines say they have retrofitted all their planes and do not expect problems.  United Airlines said it expects to meet the deadline for all its "mainline" jets, but referred questions about United Express planes to smaller carriers that operate them.

"They warned about this before though, and there were not a lot of disruptions, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.  I’d be more worried about traffic delays and potential air traffic control shortages," said travel expert Clint Henderson with The Points Guy.

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To handle large crowds and possible delays, Henderson says to get to the airport early.

"We're big fans of TSA Pre-check and Clear to speed you through airport security," suggested Henderson.

Download your airline's app onto your phone to rebook yourself if your flight is delayed or canceled.  

"You also want to be calling the 1-800 number, trying to get Customer Service that way. Reach out to them on social media. I still hear of good instances where people Direct Message airlines on Twitter and are able to get rebooked," said Henderson.  

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You can also try rebooking in the airline's lounge or calling the international line. Be sure to book trips with a credit card that covers hotel or food expenses for unexpected delays.  

"And if you call the hotel wherever you’re supposed to be staying, sometimes they’ll waive that first night and work with you," said Henderson.

D.O.T. says customers are entitled to a refund if the airline cancels their flight, and they choose not to travel, or if their flight is "significantly" delayed. But how long is considered "significant" varies by airline.


You can see each airline's refund policies on the U.S. DOT Airline Customer Service Dashboard.