I’ve had this subject on my to-write-about list for quite some time. That’s largely because fifth freedom routes are a vastly undervalued opportunity to access and experience some of the world’s best airline products in places you may least expect to find them.

What is a fifth freedom flight?

The technical explanation of the fifth freedom is:

“…allows an airline to carry revenue traffic between foreign countries as a part of services connecting the airline’s own country. It is the right to carry passengers from one’s own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country (and so on).” (Wikipedia)

A slightly simpler explanation:

They are flights operated by an airline between two cities outside of their home country. 

Here’s an example that I’ve mentioned previously:

Cathay Pacific flies a non-stop service between Vancouver and Hong Kong that originates in New York. This means that the flights between New York and Vancouver are fifth freedom flights. It also happens to be one of the best around, as the flight features their fantastic First Class cabin. 

Here are 5 more examples of Fifth Freedom routes to get your creative juices flowing:

1.) Madrid to Frankfurt

LAN 787 Business Class

Airline: LAN (formerly LATAM)

Comments: Inter-Europe business class generally consists of a pretty poor offering these days. The opportunity to fly on a 787-9 with fully-flat business class seats and it seems, regular business class service, makes this one of the best ways to fly within Europe. You can even book it with Avios. A one-way flight costs 15,000 Avios and just £38. 

2.) Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane to Christchurch/Auckland

Emirates A380 First Class Shower Spa
Complimentary onboard shower – Emirates First Class A380

Airline: Emirates

Comments: If you are heading down under, there is a good chance you’ll tag on a quick trip to New Zealand having come all that way. This is a great chance to try one of the superb Emirates First Class. You may well have seen it featured in articles/ads before but didn’t fancy shelling out £5,000+ to fly London-Dubai.

Flights in First on these routes can be ‘as little as’ £875 one-way. Considering you get an onboard shower, caviar and Krug on tap, I’d say you should be able to drink your money’s worth justify the price tag!

3.) Manchester to Houston

Singapore Airlines A350 business class

Airline: Singapore Airlines

Comments: This is an excellent alternative for routing to the US featuring some of Singapore’s latest in-flight offerings.

Redeeming miles: I generally find Singapore’s business class availability to be quite good whenever I’ve looked. A one-way flight from Manchester to Houston costs 65,000 KrisFlyer miles and £189. That is a decent deal when you consider that a BA flight in Club World from London will cost you between 62,500 Avios and 75,000 Avios (Off peak/peak) + £387 in taxes. And I would take Singapore’s A350 Business Class over BA Club World any day.

There are a number of ways to earn KrisFlyer miles in the UK. They are a transfer partner with Amex (Membership Rewards), HSBC (Reward points) and SPG (Starpoints).

4.) Dubai to Muscat 

SWISS Airlines A330 First Class seat

Airline: SWISS Airlines

Comments: Now this is an interesting one. SWISS has some of the most restrictive rules when it comes to redeeming frequent flyer miles for their First Class cabin. In fact, only top-tier Miles & More Senator and HON Circle members are able to redeem their miles for SWISS First. So here’s a great way to try it – albeit you could do with the flight being that bit longer.

SWISS flies a daily service between Dubai and Muscat with a flight time of just over an hour. One-way tickets can be had for as little as £310. I say as little because the alternative direct service operated by Emirates seems to be about £1000 in First!

5.) Dublin – Los Angeles 

Ethiopian Airways 787 Dreamliner Business Class seats

Airline: Ethiopian Airways

Comments: This is an intriguing one. Ethiopian Airways flies a 787 Dreamliner on a non-stop service from Dublin to Los Angeles twice a week. They offer a fully flat bed in Business Class and although I can’t comment on the service, it is hard to argue with the price.

The only other direct option comes via Aer Lingus which seems to be consistently priced at around £2,800 return in Business Class. Now that in itself isn’t a bad price, considering that flights from London on BA/Virgin can often exceed £7,000!

By contrast, Ethiopian looks to be charging £1,200 for many of the dates that I checked!

Another key point is that by flying from Dublin you can utilise the Preclearance US immigration facilities there.  This will save you valuable time when arriving stateside where you will have the status of a domestic arrival and are able to skip any immigration queues.


Fifth freedom routes can provide a really great, out of the box way to get from A to B. For further ideas, a really good resource for exploring available fifth freedom routes is this article by Flypointyend.com. Fifth freedom routes do come and go (think Hong Kong-Bangkok in Emirates First for £500) but they are definitely something to keep an eye out for!