13 of the coolest European fifth-freedom routes you should know about

Jun 27, 2020

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The fifth-freedom is one of nine freedoms of the air, which are a set of rights that grant airlines, among other things, the possibility of landing in foreign countries. These freedoms are negotiated between nations across the world to allow commercial flights to operate fairly.

Fifth-freedom flying is of particular interest to AvGeeks and frequent flyers alike because it allows an airline to operate a flight between two countries that are not its own, so long as the aircraft is flying from or to its home country. It also allows for the airline in question to sell tickets for passengers and earn revenue on the part of the route that does not include an airport in its own country. For example, Singapore Airlines flies from its base in Singapore (SIN) to Frankfurt (FRA) where it can both pick up and drop off passengers before continuing its flight to New York (JFK).

Ultimately, this means that you get to fly an airline that you might not otherwise be able to without flying to the country that it’s based in.

In Europe, we’re lucky in that we have a complex network of these kinds of flights right on our doorstep. Some of them start in European cities and head further afield to other continents, and others stay within European borders.

Here are some of our favourites.

Related: 10 best North American fifth freedom carriers to book with points

Long-haul alternatives

Athens (ATH) or Milan (MXP) to New York (JFK) with Emirates

If you’ve got some Emirates Skywards miles to use up or you’d like to experience Emirates but don’t fancy heading east, then why not go via Athens or Milan on your next trip to New York?

Emirates president Sir Tim Clark explained to TPG’s Editor-at-Large Zach Honig at the Dubai Air Show, that Emirates’ fifth-freedom flights to North America are crucial to expanding the airline’s profile. On routes like New York (JFK) to Milan where the best competition is a United 767-400ER with 2-1-2 configured business-class seats, Emirates is likely to be the option of choice for those who have the miles or cash to spend.

A return in Emirates first class from Milan (MXP) to New York (JFK) will set you back 135,000 Skywards miles and 105 euro. Compare that to 136,000 Avios and more than £1,000 in taxes for a return from London to New York in First with BA.

Last year, we sent Intern Javi Rodriguez to check it out, and he really enjoyed his economy trip across the pond on Emirates’ A380.

For more insight into what it’s like to fly Emirates, check out our video of a comparison of Emirates’ three classes from Dubai (DXB) to Stansted (STN) including Emirates’ brand-new first class.

Related: Emirates first class on the 777 from Dubai to London Stansted

Emirates new first-class suite (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Barcelona (BCN) to Mexico City (MEX) with Emirates

Emirates is known for its fifth-freedom routes, this time from Barcelona to Mexico City. The flight can take anywhere from around 11 hours and 20 minutes, to 12 hours and 55 minutes.

Related reading: 6 things you should know before your next trip to Barcelona

While Emirates’ 777-200LR would be able to comfortably complete the 8,914-mile trip, the airline is likely to have included the stop in Barcelona to increase load factor with Spanish and Mexican ex-pats and tourists.

Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK) with Singapore Airlines

The Singapore Airlines route from New York to Frankfurt is a firm favourite of many U.S. flyers who want to experience the what the airline has to offer, and it is the only route the airline flies its A380 to in the U.S.

However, the A380s that the airline flies on this route are not fitted with the coveted new Singapore Suites. If you want to experience that, TPG U.K. Director of Content Nicky Kelvin explains how it’s possible for as little as £19. You can watch TPG U.K. compare all cabins of service on this flight in our four-class comparison.

London (LHR), Amsterdam (AMS) and Vienna (VIE) to Bangkok (BKK) with EVA Air

EVA Air is actually based in Taipei, Taiwan, off the coast of China, but it also operates routes out of Bangkok to these three European cities: Amsterdam, London and Vienna.

It’s worth giving it a try, too. We love EVA’s business-class product so much that we consider EVA to be overlooked when considering transpacific routes. We’ve also reviewed the airline premium economy and it got a very commendable score.

EVA Air business class seat (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Paris (CDG) to Los Angeles (LAX) with Air Tahiti Nui

If you want to try something completely different, next time you’re thinking of heading to California — or more specifically LA — why not go via Paris (CDG) and fly Air Tahiti Nui, a French airline based in Papeete, French Polynesia. The airline connects Paris to Papeete with a stop in LAX because the 9,995 miles it would take to fly the route nonstop would be too much or a plane full of passengers and cargo.

It’s worth noting though that while this is a neat route, it’s technically not a fifth-freedom route. That’s because the islands of French Polynesia are owned by France.

Related reading: How to spend 48 hours in Paris, France

(Screenshot courtesy Great Circle Mapper)

However, if you do want to experience this pacific island airline for yourself, then we probably wouldn’t advise flying in business class.

Short-haul hops

There are also many ways you can experience new airlines and new aircraft without even having to leave Europe.

London City (LCY) to Budapest (BUD) with LOT Polish Airlines

This rather random route made the list, as it’s perfect for those who work in the City. Going on a weekend break after work on a Friday can be a tall order if it means getting to Heathrow (LHR) or Stansted (STN). Enter LOT Polish Airlines, which operates almost perfectly timed flights from City Airport (LCY) to Budapest (BUD) for a cheeky weekend getaway.

Oslo (OSL) to Stockholm (ARN) with Ethiopian

Ethiopian operates its Dreamliner to the Swedish capital of Stockholm (ARN) with a short stop in Oslo (OSL), Norway, in each direction. You’ll pay a little over the odds though, as the average fare comes in at more than twice the price of flying Norwegian on the short 45-minute hop. It’s likely that the demand for travel between the two Scandinavian cities wouldn’t be enough to require two separate flights, so the airline rolled the two destinations into one to make it worthwhile.

Related reading: A review of Ethiopian Airlines in economy on the 787-8 from Newark to Lome

Berlin (TXL) to Moscow (SVO) with MIAT Mongolian Airlines

This is one of my favourites. The Mongolian flag carrier MIAT Mongolian Airlines (MIAT for short) operates, according to its website, only eight routes — two of which are to Europe. Both are to Germany: one is a direct flight to Frankfurt (FRA) and the other is to Berlin (TXL) via a stop in Moscow (SVO).

Related reading: You can now stay in a yurt in Mongolia with Airbnb

The blue lines are routes operated by MIAT and the green lines are flights operated by codeshare airlines. (Image courtesy MIAT Mongolian Airlines)

While I couldn’t find availability for future bookings on the airline’s website nor through any flight search engine, the last logged flight from Moscow to Berlin and back was in March, just as the aviation industry came to a halt because of the coronavirus outbreak.

(Screenshot courtesy Flightradar24)

Larnaca (LCA) to Malta (MLA) with Emirates

Emirates operates one of its three-class 777 aircraft on the short two-and-a-half-hour hop between the two Mediterranean island nations of Cyprus and Malta. Whether you want to treat yourself and pay cash for first class or use points to experience business, you’d likely want to spend a lot longer on the plane than the two-and-a-half-ish hours that you would get.

Stockholm (ARN) to Moscow (DME) with Singapore Airlines

You can experience the world-class service and in-flight meals of Singapore Airlines on the short two-hour flight from Stockholm (ARN) to Moscow (DME). It’s also actually the cheapest direct link between the two cities.

Related reading: How to book the new Singapore Suites for as little as £19

Bottom line

Whether you want to try out a new airline, a new aircraft, or use up some miles, then there’s almost definitely a fifth-freedom route perfect for you. While the coronavirus has meant the potential end of some of our favourites, such as from Manchester to Houston with Singapore Airlines, some of them remain in operation. For AvGeeks, fifth-freedom routes are one of the coolest ways to fly.

Featured photo by photosounds/Shutterstock.

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