What Are Fifth Freedom Flights? How Do They Work?

Rules and laws that regulate aviation are endless. Air travel is comprised of so many nuances that there must be a rule to regulate each aspect. However the foundation of all air travel is based on the freedoms of the air. This set of rules determines, according to bilateral agreements between countries, what kind of flights can and can’t be operated. On of the most interesting cases is the Fifth Freedom and the flights it allows. But hold on a second Alex, what are fifth freedom flights? How do they work? Well let’s get into it.

What Are Fifth Freedom Flights?

You might have heard Youtube channels or other sites mention this type of flight. It is one of the most interesting operations in civil aviation as it involves parties from 3 distinct countries. Specifically 2 airports in 2 different countries and 1 airline from a third country.

As you can see there are a lot of parties involved. This is exactly what makes this type of operation extremely interesting. So in a nutshell what is a fifth freedom flight? It’s a service that is operated by a foreign carrier between two countries that are not its home base. There are so many examples of this type of flight. Just to mention a few:

  • Emirates with its Milan – New York service or Australia to Auckland flights
  • Singapore Airlines with its Frankfurt to New York and Milan to Barcelona flights
  • Air France with its Los Angeles to Papeete flights
  • And so on.
Emirates Airbus A380 taking off from its departure airport. Same aircraft often found on fifth freedom flight from Milan to New York JFK.

Why Do Airlines Operate These Flights?

Well there are at least a few reasons for an airline to operate fifth freedom flights. Among the main reasons to schedule a service of this sort:

  • Tap into a market that would otherwise be inaccessible. This also allows to introduce new customers that might not have flown with the airline before to its service. Sort of promoting the airline by offering cheaper fares. Alternatively an airline can tap into a market were demand is higher than offer generating easy revenue.
  • An airline might not be able to make the flight non-stop to its destination and might break the route in 2. Think of the kangaroo routes Qantas offers from Sydney to London (awaiting project sunrise to launch).
  • It might not be viable to fly directly to a destination but by picking up short/medium haul passengers it makes sense. This would be the case of Emirates flights from Australia to New Zealand on the A380. Most times it would be difficult to fill a mega jumbo just with New Zealand bound passengers. However including a stop in Australia suddenly makes it more profitable.

Which Are the Other Freedoms of The Sky?

There are overall 9 freedoms of the sky, we already covered 1 of them in this post. The other 8 state that:

  1. An airline can overfly another country on route to its destination.
  2. A carrier can stop in a foreign country on route to its destination to refuel or undergo maintenance (without unloading/loading cargo or passengers).
  3. An airline can fly to a foreign country from its base and home country.
  4. The opposite of freedom 3. An airline can fly from a foreign country to its home.
  5. We covered this freedom extensively above
  6. A carrier can operate flights between two foreign countries while making a stopover in its home country.
  7. An airline can operate flights between 2 foreign countries without landing in its own home country. This is the freedom that allows international budget airlines to operate in Europe. An example, Ryanair (Irish operator) operating a flight from Rome to Paris.
  8. A carrier can operate a domestic flight in a foreign country on its route to its home country.
  9. An airline can operate domestic flights in a foreign country without originating or ending in its home country. Again budget airlines operating within European countries that aren’t their home.

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