First question: what is a fifth freedom flight? I mean, right? Fortunately, it’s quite simple.
Airlines are allowed a select number of flights which fly between two places which are not their home. Imagine a US based carrier flying a route from one European city to the next; or Emirates creating a flight between one city in Asia and another and that’s basically all you need to know.
You care, because they were an amazing opportunity to try out cool seats for a mere fraction of the cost in points or miles, and often on routes where all the other seats sucked!
Cathay Pacific’s exciting flight between New York and Vancouver is coming to a close as of February 18th, and that’s a crying shame. Cathay used Vancouver as an intermediary point for its Hong Kong – New York flight, but will now just operate direct flights to each city. The flight allowed you to fly direct between two incredible cities with very few direct flights while experiencing some of the finest flying in the sky, across all four cabins.
You could use a tiny amount of miles, compared to going on a longer journey, to book Cathay Pacific First Class or business class, and have that real gateway drug into award travel experience, and it was also just a really comfy way to fly if you paid cash, since the plane was configured for 15 hour journeys, rather than five.
Fresh on the heels of the bummer from Cathay Pacific, LATAM announced that the European equivalent will be going bye-bye as well, effective June 30th, 2020. The South American carrier operates their own fifth freedom flight between Frankfurt and Madrid with a fresh new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which sure beats the cabins you’ll find on most intra-European flights.
The LATAM Madrid-Frankfurt flight has been one of the cheapest ways to try out an international business class cabin, however you wanted to pay, and gave aviation enthusiasts fantastic novelty. Obviously, everyone on the plane was happy too, because the plane featured superior leg room to short haul equipped planes.
So, why are these flights disappearing? There are still plenty of fifth freedom flights throughout the world, from trans Tasmanian hops to Southeast Asian jaunts, but they may be endangered.
Airlines are placing extreme focus on point to point “direct flights”, and anything which requires a brief stop really no longer cuts it. With more flexible aircraft, it’s easier for airlines to focus on putting smaller planes on new routes to reduce sales pressure than to navigate all the extra hassles of picking up extra passengers en route. I