Fifth Freedom flights are all about hacking. You must be aware of them, not only for award travel values, but also because they are often the cheapest revenue flights you can get. Most people have no idea what the Fifth Freedom is, and most of those who think they do, always confuse them with cabotage rules. Some folks confuse them with the FIFTH Disease, and others with FIFTH Third Bank—well, you’ve got the idea. 🙂
Simply put, The Fifth Freedom is the rule that allows an airline to serve routes with origins and destinations outside their own countries.
Of course, it’s not that easy, or everyone would be doing that, which would be fabulous for us, passengers, but horrible for huge airline oligapolies. That would force them to endure some real competition for a change, meaning it’s not going to happen. An airline is only allowed to serve international segments if they are on the way between their own country and the destination. Cathay Pacific, for example, can fly between New York and Vancouver on the way from or to Hong Kong.
However, an airline can’t “pick up” passengers for a flight fully within the borders of another foreign country—that is prohibited by cabotage rules.
Fifth Freedom flights you already know about
Some Fifth Freedom flights are more famous than others. For example, the above referenced Cathay Pacific flight has been very popular among the hobbyists because you can (for now!) sample that fabulous Cathay’s lie-flat first or business class seat for just 32,500 or 25,000 AA miles respectively. Other famous Fifth Freedom flights include NYC-Frankfurt and Houston-Moscow routes on Singapore; LA-Paris on Air Tahiti Nui and LA-London on Air New Zealand; and NYC-Milan on Emirates.
However, there are dozens of other FFF routes (like it?) that you might want to be aware of. Of course, not all of them can be booked for miles, especially on partners miles that we tend to use. But it works quite often, so there is no reason not to try.
Los Angeles – Sao Paulo on Korean Air
It’s 75,000 miles in business after October 1, 2016.
Dubai – London
on BA and Qantas
(As Lanteon mentioned in the comments, it’s not an FFF route on BA, sorry, but I’ll keep it here for the comparison’s sake).
Both London and Dubai have a lot of FFF routes. Of course, finding a premium class seat on Qantas flight is always a challenge, but ~$200 in scamcharges on British sounds almost reasonable (never thought I’d say that, but it’s a longer flight to London than from NYC).
LA – Dublin on Ethiopian
There are not too many nonstop options between LA and Dublin, and by not many, I mean two: Aer Lingus and Ethiopian. It’s always nice when there is more than only one.
Interesting regional FFF routes
Don’t sneeze at short flights, as they can be valuable too. If you find yourself in South Africa, it would be a shame not to visit Victoria Falls. And there is no reason not to, because of the great FFF route served, by BA subsidiary Comair.
Update: Technically speaking, the Comair flights can’t be qualified as FFF, since they are a BA’s South African subsidiary, but who cares, right?
Oman is a great travel destination by many accounts and Muscat is very easy to get to from Abu Dhabi (which, in turn, is very easy to get to as well).
How to look for FFF Routes?
Keep in mind that things can and do change all the time. Malaysia used to fly between LA and Tokyo, but it discontinued all its North America flights. Kuwait Air has cancelled its profitable route between New York and London because it doesn’t want to carry Israelis.
- Amol wrote a great, extensive post on finding FFF routes on Travel Codex a few years back (of course, it wasn’t Travel Codex back then 🙂 ).
- Glenn at flightpointend maintains an extensive FFF routes too.
- Weekend Blitz lists 15 longest FFFs in the world. Fascinating read!
To be continued.