What is a fifth-freedom flight ?

Aircrafts at Hong Kong

We often notice and wonder how Singapore Airlines is flying between Frankfurt and New-York, Qantas from Singapore to London and so on with passengers able to board and disembark at the transit destination. There are also flights where passengers are required to stay within the aircraft at the transit point while the airline uses it only as a fuel stop such as the Qantas flight from Sydney to London with a fuel stop in Darwin. Let’s look at what these are.

Fifth-Freedom flights

Fifth freedom flights carry passengers between any two countries other than its home country. An example is British Airways which operates fifth freedom route between Singapore and Sydney. An aircraft which only makes a refuelling stop but cannot load passengers or cargo is an example of having rights for second freedom flight only.

Why do airlines operate fifth freedom flight ?

Years before, airlines were forced to make a fuel stop while flying long routes because the aircraft did not have the range to fly the distance. That was until new generation aircrafts were developed which could fly those distances directly. For eg- Air India used to fly their 747s from India to the America with a stopover in Europe. Having acquired the 777s Air India flies non-stop to New York, Chicago, San Francisco from India.

Air India B747-400

Air India used to operate flights to the US with stopovers in Europe using their B747s. Photo:Aerowanderer

Airlines use these fifth-freedom right to fly on long routes where they need a fuel stop and try to maximise it economically by making it a fifth freedom flight as well as on routes which are busy and offer competition. For eg- Cathay Pacific offers fifth freedom flight between Bangkok and Singapore which is a busy route already being served by Thai, Singapore Airlines, Air Asia and Silk Air.

Benefits for the passenger

For the passenger it gives many more options and choices to fly and choose from. For an aviation enthusiast it gives an opportunity to try out different airlines and aircrafts. An example is Air Mauritius used their brand new A350-900 aircraft on their Port Louis- Kuala Lumpur- Singapore route. Since it has fifth freedom rights passengers who book the short one hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore or vice versa would be able to experience the factory fresh aircraft.

Air Mauritius A350-900

Air Mauritius operated their inaugural factory fresh A350-900 on its Kuala Lumpur-Singapore leg. Photo: Air Mauritius

Sometimes, not always the fares are comparatively lower than other carriers who operate the same route. It is also a way for the frequent fliers to fill up miles. There are several fifth freedom flights all over the globe. Lets have a look at a few of them

Examples of fifth-freedom flights

Singapore AirlinesĀ 

The flag carrier of Singapore operates 6 fifth freedom flights. A few of them are Singapore- Frankfurt – New York JFK using the A380, Singapore – Hong Kong – San Francisco using the B777-300ER.

Singapore Airlines B777-300ER

Singapore Airlines uses its B777-300ER on its Hong-Kong to San-Francisco route. Photo:Aerowanderer

Eva Air

Eva Air of which Eva stands for Evergreen Airways uses Bangkok- Suvarnabhumi Airport as its gateway to Europe connecting Taipei to Amsterdam and London via Bangkok using its B777-300ER and to Vienna using its B787-9.

Qantas

This route is globally renowned and is also known as the Kangaroo route. In addition to serving London directly from Perth, it also connects London with Sydney with a stopover in Singapore Changi using an A380.

Qantas A380-800

Qantas uses its A380-800 aircraft to connect Sydney with London with a stopover in Changi. Photo: Aerowanderer

This route is also done by British Airways using a B777-300ER. Due to the recent travel restrictions in place in Changi Qantas has modified the route by using Darwin as a stopover.

Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui is an airline which used to operate flights from Papeete to Paris transiting at Los Angeles. This airline recently created a record for the longest domestic flight as it operated a direct flight between Papeete and Paris.

Emirates

One of the worlds most well connected airline boasting a variety of long haul fleet, it flies a total of around 15 fifth freedom flights.

Emirates B777-300ER

Emirates has one of the largest network in the world including about 15 fifth freedom flights. Photo: Aerowanderer

Some of them mentionable are Milan- New York using its A380, Athens – Newark, Singapore – Melbourne, Male- Colombo using its B777 aircraft.

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