The freedoms of air transportation, defined.

Did you know there are 8 freedoms to air transportation? Essentially, these describe the routes an airline can fly, and where they can pick up passengers. All air travel falls into one of these categories.


 1st Freedom

The right of an airline to fly over another country without landing.

2nd Freedom

The right of an airline to make a landing for technical reasons in another country without pickup up or setting down revenue passengers.

3rd Freedom

The right of an airline to carry revenue traffic from country A to country B.

4th Freedom

The right of an airline to carry revenue traffic from country B back to country A.

5th Freedom

The right of an airline to carry revenue traffic from country A to country B and then pick up and drop off traffic from country B to country C. You can find a list of 5th freedom routes here.

6th Freedom

The right of an airline to carry traffic between two other countries by using its home base as a transit point.

7th Freedom

The right of an airline to carry revenue traffic between points in two countries on services which lie entirely outside its own home country.

8th Freedom

The right of a foreign airline to transport passengers, freight and mail within country B on flights originating in the home country A (also known as cabotage).


 Why does this matter?

Surprisingly, it has a very cool impact on flying unique aircraft and airline product. Many of the airlines between New York JFK and Vancouver either offer a connection point with domestic cabins on both logs, or a non-stop service in what’s also considered a domestic cabin. You’d expect Air Canada to fly the route non-stop, or perhaps American via Dallas, or United via Denver. Well, if you knew what a fifth freedom flight was, you can then understand that Cathay Pacific, an airline based in Hong Kong, flies from New York JFK to Vancouver (on it’s way to Hong Kong). The same principle applies amongst all of these “freedoms,” so if you are diligent in looking for information and routes, you may be able to fly on some airlines that you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to fly the route.

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