The airline industry claims that when Verizon and AT&T activate their new 5G C-Band networks, a "catastrophic" incident could occur.

The chief executives of six big passenger and freight airlines, including Delta, United, and Southwest, warn in a letter obtained by Reuters that interference from 5G cell towers could impair important safety devices on their aircraft.

"Unless our major hubs get the clearance to fly, the vast majority of the traveling public will effectively be grounded," Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and others wrote in a letter originally reported by Reuters.

The Federal Aviation Administration has cautioned that such interference might have a detrimental effect on sensitive airplane instruments like altimeters and considerably impede low-visibility operations.

JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes warned staff on Monday that the company's planned launch of a new 5G service on Wednesday will "add to the already vulnerable air system's stress."

Airlines were weighing whether to cancel some overseas flights due to arrive in the United States on Wednesday.

Separately, United Airlines warned late Monday that the issue may affect over 15,000 of its flights, 1.25 million passengers, and disrupt tons of cargo per year.

"Immediate response" is necessary to avoid substantial operational disruptions for airline passengers, shippers, the supply chain, and the delivery of critical medical supplies, airline CEOs stated.

Verizon and AT&T have been requested to refrain from offering 5G service within two miles of some of the country's busiest and most critical airports.

Additionally, the CEOs encouraged the federal government to ensure that 5G be implemented except where towers are too close to airport runways, pending FAA determination on how this may be done safely and without catastrophic impact.

The letter was addressed to Brian Deese, head of the White House National Economic Council, Steve Dickson, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Jessica Rosenworcel, chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The letter is the latest in a series of exchanges between the airline and wireless sectors. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile spent over $80 billion at the start of last year to acquire the FCC-allotted repurposed C-Band spectrum.

They later proposed capping the power output of cell towers located near airports and reached an agreement on January 4 for another two-week postponement.

The FAA said an estimated 45% of the U.S. commercial airline fleet has been certified to execute low-visibility landings at many of the airports where 5G C-band would be implemented. They hope to give more clearances before Wednesday.