Fifth freedom routes are a vastly undervalued opportunity to experience some of the world’s best airline cabins in places you may least expect to find them.
If you’ve decided 2019 is going to be the year you start to cross some of the more aspirational business/first class cabins off your bucket list, fifth freedom flights can be a great way to do it.
What is a fifth freedom flight?
Let’s get the technical bit out of the way first…
Fifth freedom flights:
“…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)
Or a slightly simpler explanation:
They are flights operated by an airline between two cities outside of their home country.
Here are some interesting fifth freedom routes to give you some ideas:
1.) Madrid to Frankfurt – LAN
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.) Milan/Athens to New York – Emirates
Comments: This is a great way to try out the superb Emirates First Class, complete with onboard shower.
First class availability using Emirates Skywards miles looks to be pretty solid on these routes. The online calculator on the Emirates website suggests that a one-way journey would cost 85,000 Skywards miles per person. Considering you get an onboard shower, and 9 hours+ of caviar and Krug on tap, I’d say you should be able to
drink your money’s worth justify the cost!
3.) Manchester to Houston – Singapore Airlines
Comments: This is an excellent alternative for routing to the US featuring the (still) newish A350 aircraft.
I’ve generally found Singapore’s business class miles 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 very 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’d take Singapore’s A350 Business Class over BA Club World any day.
There are numerous ways to earn KrisFlyer miles in the UK. They are a transfer partner with Amex (Membership Rewards), HSBC (Reward points) and Marriott Rewards points.
4.) Edinburgh to Dublin – Hainan Airlines
Comments: This is a really quirky route. Hainan Airlines launched the first direct flights from Scotland and Ireland to mainland China in June 2018. However, the flights to Beijing use an interesting routing that involves departing from either Edinburgh or Dublin depending on the day of the week. This allows for a short ‘shuttle’ flight between the two cities, operated by a long-haul Hainan Airlines 787.
Looking at the schedule, it appears you can fly this fifth freedom route from Edinburgh to Dublin on Tuesdays & Saturdays and Dublin to Edinburgh on Thursdays and Sundays.
5.) Dubai to Muscat – SWISS
Comments: SWISS has some of the most restrictive rules when it comes to redeeming frequent flyer miles for First Class. 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 on what is a very short hop.
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 £320. I say ‘as little as’ because the alternative direct service operated by Emirates seems to fetch around £1,000 for First!
6.) Frankfurt to New York – Singapore Airlines
Comments: This is one of the best ways to try Singapore Airlines’ famed Suites Class (complete with double bed), on the cheap.
Singapore Airlines did recently increase the price of many of their mileage awards. A one-way Saver Award now costs 76,000 Singapore Krisflyer miles – then again that’s not bad to be able to tick Singapore Suites Class off your list and a pretty great way to cross the Atlantic to boot!
7.) New York to Vancouver – Cathay Pacific
Comments: Cathay Pacific flies between Vancouver and Hong Kong on a flight that originates in New York. This means that the flights between New York and Vancouver are fifth freedom flights. It also happens to be a great way to try their terrific First Class product.
You can redeem 50,000 Avios + just £35.50 for six hours in Cathay Pacific First class.
Fifth freedom routes can provide a really great, out of the box way to get from A to B. While these routes do come and go (RIP Hong Kong-Bangkok in Emirates First for under £500) but they are definitely something to keep an eye out for!
Tip of the hat to the excellent www.flypointyend.com for many of these.
Header image credit: Agent Wolf / Shutterstock.com