The “freedoms of the air” were originally drafted as part of the Chicago convention in 1944. These set out the rules that air transport operators must follow, starting with the first freedom – the ability to fly at through the airspace of another country without landing.
The fifth freedom, however, is one of the most interesting. It allows airlines to fly from point A to point B, with a stopover at an intermediate point on the way. The beauty of this particular freedom is that when it stops at the intermediate point, the airline is allowed to pick up and drop off passengers.
In practice, this means that there are a few routes on which you can fly on an exotic airline, perhaps on a widebody service, on a relatively short route. Europe is a hotspot for some very cool fifth freedom flights – let’s take a look at some of the best.
5 Larnaca to Athens with Gulf Air
Billing itself as the “boutique” airline of the Middle East, few travelers can fly with Gulf Air. Its business class on the 787 is very good, although with a 2-2-2 layout, it’s not quite that direct aisle access that is quickly becoming the industry standard. Unfortunately, you won’t see his 787-9 on this fifth freedom route.
Gulf Air uses its narrow-body A320 family for fifth freedom flight. Photo: Gulf Air
The airline operates from Bahrain to Athens with a stopover in Larnaca, but it is bringing the A320 family to this route. Depending on the day, you might get the A320neo, or you might be in an older A320ceo or even an A321 (neo or ceo). It has business class, but it’s a recliner, not a flatbed. Nevertheless, it is a good opportunity to fly on a rare airline and experience the sweet product on board for yourself.
Depart from Bahrain at 05:00 a.m., arrive in Larnaca at 08:35 a.m.
Depart Larnaca at 9:35 a.m., arrive in Athens at 11:20 a.m.
Departure from Athens at 12.25 p.m., arrival in Larnaca at 2.00 p.m.
Depart Larnaca at 4:00 p.m., arrive in Bahrain at 7:05 p.m.
The route operates three times a week, but times vary between different departure days, so check the booking site for confirmation. To date, the fifth freedom flight between Larnaca and Athens costs around $200 in economy class and between $560 and $600 in business.
4 Stockholm to Oslo with Ethiopian Airlines
Ethiopian Airlines has offered a fifth freedom route between Stockholm and Oslo since 2016. Currently, the service is daily and operated by the airline’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Keep in mind that although transit between Sweden and Norway can usually be done with just an ID card, this flight departing from Addis you will need a full passport to board.
Ethiopian business class could be yours for this very short trip. Photo: Ethiopian Airlines
The schedule is as follows:
Depart Addis Ababa at 11:40 p.m., arriving in Stockholm at 6:40 a.m. the following day
Depart Stockholm at 7:40 a.m., arrive in Oslo at 8:45 a.m.
Depart Oslo at 7:45 p.m., arrive in Stockholm at 8:50 p.m.
Depart Stockholm at 9:50 p.m., arrive in Addis at 6:20 a.m. the following day
Unlike many fifth freedom flights, the flight times are actually very good for day visitors or business travelers to Oslo. Prices today range from just over $100 for economy, up to around $600 for extended business class. What a great opportunity to fly with this exotic airline on a European short haul!
3 Geneva to Manchester with Ethiopian Airlines
Our second entry from Africa’s largest airline, Ethiopian, secured the rights to a fifth free flight from Manchester to Geneva last month. The route will be launched this winter and will allow the airline to transport passengers between the two European cities on board its Boeing 787.
Fancy a jump aboard the Ethiopian 787? Photo: Boeing
The schedule as it stands is as follows:
Departs from Manchester at 6:50 p.m., arrives in Geneva at 9:40 p.m.
Departure from Geneva at 10:40 p.m., arrival in Addis Ababa at 7:30 a.m. the following day
Departure from Addis Ababa at 01:15 a.m., arrival in Geneva at 06:15 a.m.
Departure from Geneva at 7:15 a.m., arrival in Manchester at 8:05 a.m.
The schedules aren’t the most traveler-friendly, but it’s well worth the inconvenience of flying with an airline that’s rarely an option for Europeans. Tickets cost around $250 for economy and $600 for business.
2 Malta to Larnaca with Emirates
Usually, if you get on an Emirates plane in Europe, you are going on a very long journey. Some may be stopping over in Dubai for a vacation, others will be en route to one of its destinations in Asia, Africa or Oceania. But for a handful of lucky travellers, there’s the option of flying a much shorter segment while enjoying that inimitable Emirates service.
Emirates is flying its 777-300ER on this fifth freedom service. Photo: Emirates.
The airline restarted its service from Malta to Dubai via Larnaca in June last year and this summer upgraded its frequency from three times a week to five. Operated by the Boeing 777-300ER, the route is flown as follows:
Depart Dubai at 8:00 a.m., arrive in Larnaca at 11:10 a.m.
Depart Larnaca at 12:20 p.m., arrive in Malta at 2:05 p.m.
Depart Malta at 3:35 p.m., arrive in Larnaca at 7:00 p.m.
Depart Larnaca at 8:10 p.m., arrive in Dubai at 1:05 a.m.
The flight operates on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is one of the oldest fifth freedom routes in the world, having operated this way for approximately 24 years.
1 Milan to Barcelona with Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines is well known for its exemplary service and comfortable onboard product, but not everyone has the time or the need to fly to Singapore. If you’re in Europe, however, you can make the much shorter jump between Milan and Barcelona aboard one of the airline’s flagship A350 jumbo jets.
Singapore Airlines’ upcoming Fifth Freedom between Italy and Spain gets our top pick of the coolest route. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | single flight
The route was only launched in January this year, but sees the Southeast Asian carrier departing from Singapore, flying to Milan, rotating to Barcelona and back, then returning to Singapore. This means there are opportunities to enjoy the fabulous SIA A350 on a one hour and 40 minute European flight if you time it correctly.
According to Cirium, the airline’s schedule is as follows:
Depart Singapore at 11:45 p.m. Arrive in Milan at 5:55 a.m. the following day
Departure from Milan at 07:15 a.m. Arrival in Barcelona at 08:50 a.m.
Departure from Barcelona at 10:10 a.m. Arrival in Milan at 11:50 a.m.
Depart Milan at 1:10 p.m. Arrive in Singapore at 8:05 a.m. the following day
Compared to some of the lower cost European airlines, this is a slightly more expensive option, but well worth it for the experience. For example, an easyJet or Ryanair flight between the two cities usually costs between $20 and $30; with Singapore it will be more like $80-$90. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile investment to try this unique airline.
Have you made any interesting fifth freedom flights? Let us know in the comments.
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