Have you ever heard of the fifth-freedom-flight?

What does fifth-freedom-flight mean?

Fifth-freedom-flight means guaranteeing the right to fly between two foreign countries, this is when the plane starts or terminates its flight from its home country. This means that the plane can fly over two foreign countries as long as its home country is part of this long route, either in landing or in take-off.

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For instance, flying from Dubai to Milan to New York and then to Milan back to Dubai, during this flight the plane can carry passengers between Milan and New York (two foreign cities in Italy and USA) from or to its home base Dubai which is in UAE.

In case the plane stops in an extra country to refuel, it hasn’t the right to carry or deplane passengers and this isn’t considered a fifth-freedom-flight.

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Credit: weekendblitz.com

The fifth-freedom-flight is apart from “freedom of the air” a group of agreed-upon principles that allow airlines to fly around the world. The first freedom allows carriers to fly over sovereign airspace. The second freedom allows airplanes to make a technical stop in a foreign country. The third and fourth freedom enable planes to fly in international flights from their home countries and vice-versa. The first four freedoms are essential for international flights as it’s known today. It became more complicated with the fifth and sixth freedoms which enable airplanes to fly outside of their home country.

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Historically, fifth-freedom-flights were essential to achieve the sustainability of haul-flights. Due to the shorter range of aircraft, planes had to stop several times during the flight before planes such as B747 and A300 removed the necessary need to multi-stop in the long route.

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Now, airlines use fifth-freedom-flights to manage serving several destinations in one flight. Airlines now stop for one time to carry and drop passengers off – this helps airlines to increase their revenues with less costs.

Credit: reuters.com
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Why do some airlines use the fifth-freedom-flights?

The most important reasons of commercial airlines using the fifth-freedom-flight are as follows.

  • Destinations which are hard to be reached nonstop, so a stop is necessary.
  • The fifth-freedom-flight is considered profitable (for instance: Emirates flies in a nonstop flight from Dubai to New York but, operates flights from Dubai to Milan to New York. This not because it can’t make a nonstop flight but rather because the economics of the Milan to New York flight makes sense as the market between Milan and New York, Dubai and Milan and between Dubai and New York is large. So this gives the airline lots of opportunities.
  • The last reason is that an airline may want to serve a definite destination, but there’s not enough demand to operate directly there.
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What passengers have to care about the fifth-freedom-flights

  • Flying over several countries is exciting.
  • Fifth-freedom-flight is more reasonably priced in some airlines.
  • Fifth freedom flights can offer an importantly better passenger experience, because these flights are often operated by long haul aircraft.
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Another side of fifth-freedom-flight

This kind of flight is very suitable for passengers and airlines but, local carriers suffer. Some airlines oppose the interfere of foreign airlines in their markets and lose the right of market sharing. For example, United protested the entry of Emirates’ fifth freedom route to Newark from Athens, as have other local carriers globally. Local carriers see that foreign airlines can flog them into losses and damage the national economy.

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To start a fifth-freedom-flight, airlines need permission from three separate governments, which is much more complicated than planning any regular direct flight. This explains why we don’t see fifth-freedom-flights everywhere on popular routes. Governments tend to oppose fifth freedom routes to protect their local airlines.

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Sources

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