Taking Advantage of Fifth Freedom Flights

In the unofficial “Freedoms of the Air,” the fifth freedom is the ability for a carrier of Country A to carry passengers on an international route solely between Country B and Country C when on a multi-leg flight that involves Country A. This is usually because of a necessitated stopover — the distance between Country A and Country C is too far, so a stopover is made in Country B. Other times, it’s to help combine traffic for multiple countries, such as Brussels Airlines West Africa routes. The carrier is allowed to carry passengers between A-B, A-C, and B-C.

An example of this is the Kangaroo route between London and Sydney. This route is too long for any carrier to fly nonstop, so historically, a stop has been made somewhere in Asia. British Airways flies London to Sydney via Singapore, and carries passengers from London to Singapore, London to Sydney, and Singapore to Sydney. That last example is a fifth-freedom route, since a UK-based carrier is carrying passengers between Singapore and Australia.

HOW CAN THIS BENEFIT ME?

Often times, fifth-freedom carriers will serve a certain destination pair with much larger aircraft than the home carriers will. Let’s go back to the example of Auckland – Sydney. This route is served by Australia-based carriers like Virgin Australia and Qantas as well as Air New Zealand. The aircraft on this route include narrow-bodies like the Boeing 737, Airbus A320, and some Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 on certain flights.

However, it’s also served by Dubai-based Emirates, which flies the route with its Airbus A380 and Chile-based LAN, which flies the route with its Airbus A340. Emirates tags Sydney-Auckland to the end of its Dubai-Sydney flight, while LAN tags Auckland-Sydney to the end of its Santiago-Auckland flight.

If you want to fly between Sydney and Auckland, you can book a ticket on Emirates or LAN, even though neither is based in either country. Fifth freedoms are how I flew the Emirates A380 in First Class between Hong Kong and Bangkok (for only a few hundred dollars more than coach!). Emirates is partners with Korean Air, which is a partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can book the AKL-SYD flight in Business for 25,000 Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Korean Skypass one-way, or 37,500 points in First.  LAN’s long-haul business class is also a great product, and their A340s are much wider than the Boeing 767s they fly on most North American routes. Lastly, because LAN is a member of OneWorld, you can use your American AAdvantage miles or British Airways Avios to fly them (and LAN doesn’t charge fuel surcharges)!

EK F suite

Emirates A380 First Class suite from Hong Kong to Bangkok

Earlier this year, I needed a random one-way segment from Hanoi to Bangkok. Neither is a OneWorld hub, so I couldn’t use Avios without a connection (which would raise the price, as well as the travel time). The cheapest ticket was on AirAsia, but for $5 more, I could buy a ticket on Qatar Airways. Hmm, an A320 on a low-cost carrier that will charge me for everything, or a Boeing 777 on “the world’s 5-star airline?” Easy decision.

Lastly, fifth-freedom flights can give you the ability to check out a carrier you otherwise would not usually fly. Bangkok-Hong Kong is replete with unique airlines from Africa, Middle East, and Indian Ocean areas (as you’ll see below).

WHAT ABOUT OTHER CITIES?

My “secret tool” for learning about fifth freedom carriers on a route I want to fly is Google.

Just go to Google.com and type in”flights from AAA to BBB,” where AAA and BBB are the airport codes of the cities you want to fly. For Sydney to Auckland, you’ll see some usual suspects, plus LAN, Emirates, and China Airlines.

SYD-AKL 5thfreedom

One problem here is that if you make “AAA” an airport within the USA, Google will return a slightly different looking results page, which isn’t as straightforward as before. For example,”flights from LAX to LHR” returns this, with a Lufthansa codeshare (which is actually the United flight) and Transaero codeshare (which is the Virgin Atlantic flight):

LAX-LHR 5thfreedom

The fix to this is to just search the reverse, to make the origin outside the USA: “flights from LHR to LAX,” which shows the true airlines flying this route (the usual suspects, but also Air New Zealand, which flies LAX to LHR after it’s flight from Auckland). Often times, the flight FROM the US is simply one flight number off of the flight TO the US.

LHR-LAX 5thfreedom

One slight drawback to this is that Google will only return the upcoming schedule of flights, so if a route is seasonal for an airline, it may not show up.

SO CAN I FLY QANTAS FROM NEW YORK TO LA?

Aha, so you’ve somehow discovered Qantas 108 (it’s delayed again today, living up to its name as “QF 1-oh-late”). Unfortunately, this isn’t a valid fifth freedom route, because New York and LA are in the same country. Qantas is only allowed to fly passengers on this route who are continuing on to a Qantas flight to Australia.

It’s the same situation down under, where United has a flight between Sydney and Melbourne, but can only carry passengers that it brought from the United States on flights from Los Angeles or San Francisco. All of this is due to rules against “cabotage” — a foreign carrier may not carry passengers solely between two domestic points.

However, British Airways flies routes within South Africa, but those are actually operated by Comair, an airline based in South Africa as an affiliate of British Airways. These intra-South Africa flights are a great use of Avios!

THEN WHAT ARE SOME INTERESTING FIFTH-FREEDOM ROUTES?

This isn’t an exhaustive list, just ones I think are interesting (due to interesting routes or cool aircraft on that route, in addition to being able to earn/burn useful miles). Keeping up-to-date is tough, as I try to look at route maps every few months, but if you know of a fifth freedom that’s not on the list, let me know! In future posts, I’ll talk about how you can use these routes to maximize award redemptions with these routes.

Last Updated: May 29, 2013 (Thai LAX-KIX, Ethiopian LFW-GIG-GRU-LFW)

OneWorld

airberlin

Abu Dhabi – Phuket

British Airways

Singapore – Sydney
Colombo-Male
Doha – Bahrain
Abu Dhabi – Muscat
Antigua – Saint Kitts
Antigua – Tobago
Antigua – Punta Cana
Antigua – San Juan
Nassau – Grand Cayman
Nassau – Providenciales
Saint Lucia – Port of Spain
Saint Lucia – Grenada

Head For Points points out that you can redeem these routes with Avios at the Reward Saver Level for a cheaper way to sample British Airways in a premium cabin.

British Airways affiliate Sun-Air of Scandinavia flies the following routes, redeemable at the Reward Saver Level:

Aalborg – Oslo
Aarhus – Gothenburg
Aarhus – Oslo
Aarhus – Stockholm (BMA)
Billund – Bergen
Billund – Brussels
Billund – Düsseldorf
Billund – Munich
Billund – Oslo
Billund – Stockholm (BMA)

While not necessarily fifth freedom routes, British Airways affiliate Comair flies domestic routes within South Africa that can be booked with Avios.

Cathay Pacific

Vancouver – New York JFK
Bangkok – Singapore
Bangkok – Mumbai
Bangkok – Delhi
Bangkok – Karachi
Bangkok – Colombo
Singapore – Colombo
Taipei – Tokyo
Taipei – Seoul
Taipei – Osaka
Taipei – Fukuoka

Iberia

San Salvador – Guatemala City

LAN

(LAN is based in Chile, but has subsidiaries in Peru, Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador, so I don’t consider routes in those countries)
Auckland – Sydney
Madrid – Frankfurt
Miami – Punta Cana
Miami – Caracas
(discontinued) New York – Toronto (I mention this because it would’ve been SWEET with Avios)

Malaysia Airlines

Los Angeles – Tokyo

QANTAS

Singapore – London (until April 2013)
Singapore – Frankfurt (until April 2013)
Dubai – London (from April 2013 onward)

Royal Jordanian

Bangkok – Kuala Lumpur
Bangkok – Hong Kong

Qatar Airways (expected OneWorld in October 2013)

Buenos Aires – Sao Paulo
Budapest – Zagreb
Baku – Tbilisi
Bucharest – Sofia
Johannesburg – Maputo
Kigali – Entebbe
Kuala Lumpur – Phuket
Bangkok – Hanoi – trip report
Bangkok – Ho Chi Minh City
Singapore – Denpasar

SriLankan (expected OneWorld in 2013)

Bangkok – Hong Kong
Bangkok – Guangzhou
Bangkok – Shanghai
Bangkok – Beijing

Star Alliance

Air Canada

Buenos Aires – Santiago

Air China

Madrid – Sao Paulo
Munich – Athens

Air New Zealand

Los Angeles – Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Los Angeles – London
London – Hong Kong (discontinued March 2013)

Brussels Airlines

(by no means do I think this one is exhaustive, since they have an interesting African route map, but these ones actually showed as bookable for the future)
Abidjan – Monrovia
Bamako -> Ouagadougou (only one-way. and you’re doing a disservice to yourself if you fly this and don’t hike the Dogon Country in Mali, near the border with Burkina)
Freetown -> Banjul
Conakry -> Banjul

COPA

San José (Costa Rica) – Guatemala City
Managua – Guatemala City
San José – Managua
San Pedro Sula – San José
Tegucigalpa – San José

EgyptAir

Bangkok – Kuala Lumpur

Ethiopian

Lomé – Rio de Janeiro (787) begins July 1, 2013 (via GRU eastbound)
Lomé – Sao Paulo (787) begins July 1, 2013 (via GIG westbound)
Bamako – Dakar
Bujumbura – Kigali
Cotonou – Abidjan
Malabo – Douala
Kigali – Entebbe
Delhi – Hangzhou, China
Bangkok – Hong Kong (until June 17, 2013)
Bangkok – Kuala Lumpur
Cairo – Stockholm

EVA Air (expected Star Alliance member in 2013, current partner with United)

Bangkok – Amsterdam
Bangkok – London Heathrow
Bangkok – Vienna

Lufthansa

Ho Chi Minh City – Bangkok
Kuala Lumpur – Bangkok
Baku – Ashgabat

Singapore Airlines

Manchester – Munich
Los Angeles – Tokyo (A380)
San Francisco – Seoul
San Francisco – Hong Kong (A380 until March 24, 2013)
Houston – Moscow
New York – Frankfurt (A380 resumes on March 25, 2013)
Sao Paulo – Barcelona (no fuel surcharge from Brazil, and only 59K SQ miles one-way for First)
Dubai – Cairo

South African Airways

Accra – Abidjan
Washington DC – Dakar

SWISS

Dubai – Muscat

THAI

Karachi – Muscat
Hong Kong – Seoul
Taipei – Seoul
Taipei – Hong Kong
Los Angeles – Seoul
Los Angeles – Osaka (KIX)

Turkish

Bishkek – Ulaanbaatar
Bahrain – Muscat
Djibouti – Mogadishu (which led to one of the more interesting Mileage Run deals)
Ho Chi Minh City – Bangkok
Sao Paulo – Buenos Aires

United

Koror (Palau) – Manila
Koror – Yap (Micronesia)
Tokyo – Guam (not really a 5th freedom, but still interesting. United has an extensive hub at Narita that serves other Asian destinations)
The Island Hopper: Honolulu to Guam via Majuro, Kwajalein, and the Caroline Islands
Kuwait – Bahrain
Dubai – Doha. In case Emirates and Qatar go bankrupt or something.

Skyteam

Air France

Los Angeles – Papeete

China Airlines

Rome – Delhi
Amsterdam – Bangkok
Brisbane – Auckland
Sydney – Auckland
Singapore – Surabaya
Hong Kong – Jakarta
Hong Kong – Bangkok

China Eastern

Colombo – Malé

Delta

Amsterdam – Mumbai
Tokyo – Koror (Palau)
Tokyo – Saipan (not really a 5th freedom but the only carrier on this route)
Delta also has a hub at Tokyo Narita for flights into Asia.

Kenya Airways

Bangkok – Hong Kong (ends March 30th, 2013)
Dubai – Hong Kong (begin March 31st, 2013)
Bangkok – Guangzhou

Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KLM)

Dammam – Kuwait
Doha – Muscat
Singapore – Denpasar
Kuala Lumpur – Jakarta

Korean Air

Los Angeles – Sao Paulo
Los Angeles – Tokyo (ends March 30th, 2013)
Honolulu – Tokyo (begins March 31st, 2013)
Vienna – Zurich

Mileage Earning Non-Alliance Carriers

Emirates (partners with Korean Air, JAL, and Alaska Airlines)

Buenos Aires – Rio de Janeiro
Colombo – Singapore
Colombo – Malé
Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne
Singapore – Melbourne
Bangkok – Sydney
Bangkok – Hong Kong (A380)
Singapore – Brisbane
Brisbane – Auckland
Sydney – Auckland (A380)
Melbourne – Auckland (A380)
Sydney – Christchurch
Harare – Lusaka
Accra – Abidjan
Malta – Larnaca

Etihad (partners with American Airlines)

Beijing – Nagoya
Singapore – Brisbane

Jet Airways (partners with American, United, and US Airways)

Newark – Brussels
Toronto – Brussels

About 

Amol (@PointsToPointB) joined HMT in 2012 and posts his thoughts on mileage earning and burning. An ardent manufactured spender, he's an American Executive Platinum, Delta Platinum, and United Platinum.
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  • http://www.frequentflyeruniversity.com/ Frequent Flyer University

    Wow! Great post. Will have to try this sometime.

  • http://www.tukwilatalk.com Chuck Parrish

    Excellent, Scott. Thanks very much!

    • Scottrick

      It was all Amol, not me, but I agree he did a good job.

  • http://thehustleblog.com/ the hustle blog

    Thought this was a repost, but then I realized it’s amol. Awesome post. Hope it keeps getting more traffic!

    • AKold

      Thanks, and I plan on keeping that list of routes updated for a while to come!

  • Singapore Flyer

    very awesome post. Thanks for the legwork. going to have to take advantage of these tag flights since I visit SEA so often.

  • iolaire

    Good information, will help with potential S American one world awards..

  • SgFm

    Curious, if I want to fly LAX-RAR on Air New Zealand’s flight with UA Mileage Plus award. do I need to call them? I can’t get the flight to come up for an online award booking.

    • SgFm

      Did a little more searching, the only non stop flight for that route is on Sundays, and it is bookable online. I just don’t see any business class award seats though, so I’m guessing that since it is continuing on to AKL, that likely it will be VERY difficult to find those seats:-(

      • Stephan

        nearly impossible and only an older recliner 767 service.

      • http://www.milestothewild.com/ Miles To The Wild

        NZ is VERY stingy with J class redemptions. You can usually get Y if you book WAY in advance and I have seen them route LAX-RAR redemptions via AKL or SYD (in Y as J is also very rare on these routes too).

  • Stephan

    Just an FYI: the B788 is actually wider than the A340 which in turn is about .5 m wider than the B767

    • AKold

      Ahh, thanks for that. Reason I point it out is because LAN’ 2-2-2 business class can get a bit narrow in the aisles on the 767, so even just 0.5m on the A340 can make a spacious difference.

  • http://www.travelbypoints.com/ Jimmy @TravelByPoints

    Very informative post with such a comprehensive list. Thanks, Amol and Scott!

  • http://milevalue.com/ MileValue

    “Flights from AAA to BBB” now appears to return an inferior google flights box instead of the one from this post.

    • Scottrick

      I just checked with LHR-SIN and it matched Amol’s description. The catch is you have to find routes where Google doesn’t have fare information

      • http://milevalue.com/ MileValue

        Huge reading comprehension failure on my part, searched LAX-GRU, not GRU-LAX as Amol said.

  • http://www.milestothewild.com/ Miles To The Wild

    Thanks, I love the BA Caribbean islands routes, nice little bargain for 4500 Avios!

  • Raffles

    Excellent post, and thanks for the Head for Points plug. I believe the LAN Madrid to FRA flight is going 787 soon, which could be a fun day out on Avios – I am planning a blog post on this in the next couple of weeks.
    A similar – although very painful to put together – post would be short haul routes served by long haul planes. Iberia does a daily LON-MAD on a long-haul, for eg, so you get a flat bed instead of the usual tiny inter-Europe J seat.

  • http://twitter.com/FabioVilela Fábio Vilela

    Since 16th of December Turkish is operating IST-GRU-EZE.
    So actually you can fly from Brazil to Argentina on Turkish Airlines

    • AKold

      Thanks for that, I did the research on TK’s routes before that day so didn’t see that. It’s been added.

  • http://paddyinba.blogspot.com/ Quickroute

    This is very informative and well written ‘ gotta try some of these thanks

  • CAFlyer

    Excellent post, many thanks for the info. Also, as someone who frequently flies to/from former Soviet countries, I love, love, love that you mentioned the Baku-Tbilisi and Baku-Ashgabat routings. I’ve done Baku-Ashgabat as part of Frankfurt-Baku-Ashgabat but still need to try Baku-Tbilisi. Thanks for the suggestion!

    • AKold

      Soon you’ll be able to redeem Baku – Tbilisi with Avios!

  • William

    EVA Air is supposedly going to join *A next year and if that is true then it would be worth noting that I happen to come across a 5th freedom flight of theres between LHR-BKK which continues on to TPE and is flown on a 77W with business class but no F.

    • AKold

      Thanks, totally forgot about EVA (they’re not *A yet, but they partner with United). I could only find LHR, VIE, AMS – BKK.

  • william

    It also looks like EVA Air flies VIE-BKK on an A332 and AMS-BKK on a 77W as well.

  • AC

    “You can book the AKL-SYD flight in Business for 25,000 Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Korean Skypass one-way, or 37,500 points in First.” Just want to point out Korean Skypass cannot book one-way on Emirates. It has to be round-trip so 50,000 in Business or 75,000 points in First.

  • Yallin

    Add HKG-TPE on TG

  • Yallin

    BKK seems to be everyone’s favorite 5th freedom point !

  • Aaron

    Excellent article, currently im taking the MK 5th freedom route between SIN-PVG tomorrow. Too bad it will soon be history :(

  • Adil Sayeed

    Other existing fifth-freedom that I can recall are:-

    Philippine Airlines: Bangkok-Delhi, Singapore-Jakarta

    Kuwait Airways: Bangkok-Manila, Colombo-Muscat, Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta

    Air Berlin: Abu Dhabi-Phuket

    Hainan Airlines: Abu Dhabi-Luanda

    Garuda Indonesia: Abu Dhabi-Amsterdam

    Royal Brunei: Dubai-London

    Druk Air: Bangkok-Dhaka

    Maldivian: Chennai-Dhaka

    Air Austral: Bangkok-Chennai

  • JB

    thanks for doing this.

  • travel_abstract

    Nice post. I have been keeping my eye on those Qatar Sao Paolo routes for awhile. Hoping to book an award when they officially join oneworld

  • dd

    also a few from ror (palau)…
    delta nrt-ror
    united mnl-ror

    etc…

  • RakSiam

    This is fantastically helpful! Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/quixoticguide mvandendriessche

    Paris CDG – Rome FCO with Kuwait Airways is also a fifth freedom flight (and cheaper then AF or AZ to fly)

  • http://twitter.com/quixoticguide mvandendriessche

    and GVA-FRA-GVA

  • MR.H

    what about NRT-MNL on DL?

  • NomadPappa

    This is a great list. Thank you for putting it together. I have had the fortune/ misfortune of flying some of the Brussels airlines fifth freedom flights in West and East Africa. I took the one from Abidjan to Monrovia a few times because of the convenience in schedules, but it can be obnoxiously expensive. The paid anywhere between $700 – $900…for a short one hour flight. Brussels knows the traffic is mostly UN workers, aid agencies, and NGOs (who NEED to fly between the two cities because the roads are non-existent and unsafe for most of the year) so they charge whatever they want and get away with it. Same with the Ouga-Bamako route and Conakry-Banjul route. British Airways is starting to that with the Freetown – Monrovia route because they know they can get away with it.

    Brussels is somewhat less obnoxious in East Africa where there is more competition. Brussels does a fifth freedom flight between Kigali and Nairobi, where the prices can vary a lot.

    I still prefer to fly Brussels and other Star Alliance carriers in the region (Ethiopian, South African Airways) because I hate Delta with a passion and I will avoid flying any SkyTeam partner because of Delta (I am US based, but travel extensively to/fro and within Africa for work).

    Keep up the great work. Look forward to reading more.

    • AKold

      Wow, thanks for the comment! You must have flown some interesting routes. I’ve done the Ouaga-Niamey flight on Air France before … I crossed the Burkina-Mali border on the ground, though I don’t think that’d be a good idea right now …

  • http://twitter.com/bszweda Benjamin Szweda

    Would you have to book this as 2 round trip flights? Taking United for example from America to SCL return. And a 2nd booking SCL-EZE return on AC? Or if all in *A could calling United get it all booked?

    • AKold

      If it’s a mileage ticket, you should be able to book it with a stopover in SCL. If it’s a paid ticket, it may not be as easy.

  • Andrew yvR

    Great Article. I enjoyed the comprehensive list. I have flown a handful of these, but will have to explore more!

  • DrTravel

    BA: CMB-MLE

  • kenneth

    Maybe you can add KLM kul-cgk…

  • Karanbir

    LH from AUH-MCT

  • http://www.croix-malte.fr Hyacinthe

    To find schedules, you can also use http://www.rome2rio.com/ or http://flightmapper.net/

  • Izzy

    Air France flies from EZE to MVD as well, as a 5th freedom flight.

  • Strigo Viro

    Great information! Thanks

  • Vince

    For China Airlines – Also NRT-HNL and KIX-JFK

  • Cesare

    Please add Emirates MXP-JFK daily from 1 october 2013

  • JustSaying

    What an absolutely brilliant list! Weld done or medium rare to be exact!

  • JustSaying

    That would be well done……..when you do posts like this you take yourself into Frequent Flyer ninja lore……..I now have a totally different round the world plan thanks to you! Ninja!

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    Remove DPS-SIN QR is no longer offering after july :(

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  • dan luttrell

    I know this is an old post but I’m surprised some of the air carriers haven’t figured out a way to de-brand aircraft to allow intercountry flights. For example the QA 108. They could “lease” this aircraft over to another US captive carrier just for that flight. I assume this would bring up issues with gate leases, etc. though.

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