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Fifth freedom routes have always interested me. I’m not exactly sure what the draw is about flying a carrier that is foreign to both your origin and destination, but there certainly is one. At least for me.

There are a few lists of fifth freedom routes flying around, but this is the one tend to go to when looking for a specific route. Most of the routes that get a lot of press either originate or terminate in the U.S. But don’t let that stop you from finding other interesting ones around the world.

The 5 fifth freedom routes I’d like to fly someday

  1. Vancouver to New York on Cathay Pacific – This route is a great way to experience Cathay business or first class for substantially less than a transpacific flight. You can fly business for 25,000 Alaska miles, or sit in first for 35,000 miles one-way. If you have AA miles to burn, business class is fairly reasonably priced at 30,000 miles.
  2. New York to Frankfurt on Singapore – This is one of the most popular fifth freedom routes, not to mention one of the most aspirational. As Singapore’s only suites-class route that touches the U.S., it goes without saying that it is highly popular. An award will set you back 67,500 miles plus taxes and fees. At least you won’t pay fuel surcharges soon (SEE: 3 big Singapore KrisFlyer devaluations (and a possible silver lining)). Good luck finding availability, though.
  3. Los Angeles to Papeete on Air France – The cultural ties between France and French Polynesia are the driving force behind this unique route. After arriving in Los Angeles from Paris CDG, Air France’s Boeing 777 continues onward to Tahiti. Interestingly enough, Air Tahiti Nui flies the same route, including the same stop in LAX, in reverse.
  4. Madrid to Frankfurt on LAN – I picked this route since it would be a great way to try a premium cabin without paying premium prices. Round-trip tickets in business class between these two cities are often very reasonably priced on LAN. Google Flights shows cash prices of $240 in business for tons of dates over the next several months. The coolest part: you’re flying a Boeing 787 with a lie-flat product on what would normally be served by a more typical regional aircraft.
  5. Los Angeles to Dublin on Ethiopian – Maybe it’s just because Ethiopian decided to connect California and Addis Ababa via Dublin of all places, but I think this is one of the coolest fifth freedom routes out there. It is flown by one of Ethiopian’s Boeing 787s. There is often a good amount of award space in both economy and business class.

Ethiopian Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner brussels airport cc-2.0

There are many more great fifth freedom routes out there, including Los Angeles to London on Air New Zealand, New York to Milan (and currently launching Newark to Athens) on Emirates, and San Francisco to Hong Kong on Singapore. If you look beyond routes originating or terminating in the U.S., there are many, many more.

Where did the term ‘fifth freedom’ come from anyway?

I’ve known what fifth freedom is in practice, but I’ve never really know the exact definition. Or where the term ‘fifth freedom’ comes from. It turns out the term comes from the ‘Nine Freedoms of the Air’ as part of the Manual on the Regulation of International Air Transport. Since the 5th item in the list of freedoms relates to these situations, the routes have been dubbed ‘fifth freedom’ routes. From the manual:

“The Fifth Freedom of the Air is 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).”

Is less confusing language, it is simply the privilege to provide air service between two countries of which neither is the airline’s home country.

What do you think of fifth freedom routes? Do you find them as interesting as I do?

Ethiopian 787 image courtesy of Brussels Airport under CC 2.0 license

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