Fifth Freedom Flights

Qatar has some interesting Fifth Freedom flights

Next week, my wife and I are planning to visit Liverpool so I can show her around and we can take in a match at Anfield. We are traveling there via an unorthodox route. We’re flying from Atlanta to Houston (going the wrong way) and then from Houston to Manchester on Singapore Airlines. If you’re not familiar with something called Fifth Freedom flights, you are probably wondering how and why Singapore flies that route.

I was somewhat familiar with Fifth Freedom routes as I knew about the Houston-Manchester route plus Emirates’ routes from Newark to Athens and JFK to Milan and KLM’s route from Singapore to Bali. We also flew Qatar Airways from Hanoi to Bangkok in 2018, although that route is no longer active.

Why is it even called Fifth Freedom? There is a treaty signed by the 193 nations in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that lists the five official “freedoms” of the air.

First Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to fly across its territory without landing (also known as a First Freedom Right).

Second Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to land in its territory for non-traffic purposes (also known as a Second Freedom Right).

Third Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to put down, in the territory of the first State, traffic coming from the home State of the carrier (also known as a Third Freedom Right).

Fourth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to take on, in the territory of the first State, traffic destined for the home State of the carrier (also known as a Fourth Freedom Right).

Fifth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to put down and to take on, in the territory of the first State, traffic coming from or destined to a third State (also known as a Fifth Freedom Right).

Above from: Freedoms of the Air

Essentially, the Fifth Freedom is where an airline can sell tickets and board passengers and cargo from one country to another without stopping in its home country.

It turns out there are tons of these routes across the world. Many are in smaller airports in Africa and Asia where there aren’t national airlines in each country to support air routes so the country agrees to allow other airlines to come in and sell tickets on routes between two countries that otherwise would not have air service. It’s also often part of a triangle route such as Doha-Hanoi-Bangkok-Doha where an airline can’t support a flight to just one of those cities, but can pick up passengers from both. In those cases, they also sometimes are allowed to carry passengers to/from the two middle cities.

I found a fairly current list of these routes here: List of Fifth Freedom Routes

Sometimes these flights have better award availability than other airlines on the same route. It’s a fairly well-known hack in the award travel community that those Emirates routes to Athens and Milan provide a way to sample Emirates business or first class without routing through the Middle East and with generally more availability in business or first class than routes like JFK-Dubai.

We look forward to being able to try Singapore Airlines business class from Houston to Manchester next week. I’ll have a full review of the flight and the rest of the trip after we return.

If you have questions about this post, let me know in the comments or send me an email at emptynestermiles@gmail.com. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.

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