Why You Need to Know the 5 Freedoms of Air Travel

Every so often when I’m bored, I’ll peruse YouTube for new, random videos and see what’s out there. If you’re not a subscriber, I highly suggest checking out Wendover Productions, as they have a lot of unique videos exploring facts and oddities about traveling, the economy, business and more. They’re really information, and worth a look.

They published a fascinating video the other day on the 5 Freedoms of Air Travel, which you can watch below:

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To sum it up, here’s the general freedoms:

  1. To fly across its territory without landing.
  2. To land for nontraffic purposes.
  3. To put down passengers, mail, and cargo taken on in the territory of the country whose nationality the aircraft possesses.
  4. To take on passengers, mail, and cargo destined for the territory of the country whose nationality the aircraft possesses.
  5. To take on passengers, mail, and cargo destined for the territory of another agreeing nation and to put down passengers, mail, and cargo coming from any such territory.

Why should this be important to me?

I’m glad you asked. You’re probably looking at that list and thinking: “Who cares?” Not so fast.

Now, in all honestly, you won’t find Freedoms 1-4 that useful. However, take a look at number 5. You really need to know about flights who take advantage of the fifth freedom, often referred to as “5th Freedom Flights.”

Let’s say you want to fly between Singapore and Sydney. Who are your obvious airlines that you’d look up that fly the route? Probably your first two instincts are Qantas and Singapore. However, did you know that British Airways flies the route?

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What if you want to fly New York to Frankfurt? Probably you’re instinct is to look at Lufthansa, and maybe all three of the big US legacy carriers (American, Delta and United). However, you know Singapore Airlines flies the route, right? 🙂

Essentially, a fifth freedom flight is a flight between two countries, of which neither country is the home country of the airline flying the route. So, in the case of the last example, Singapore Airlines is not based in either the United States or Frankfurt.

Why Fifth Freedom Flights are Important

People don’t normally think of this “fifth freedom” routs for obvious reasons, though they can be incredibly valuable.

First, they could be less crowded, offering cheaper fares or more chances for an upgrade.

Second, and maybe more importantly, they are often better aircraft. So, let’s say you want to travel from JFK to Vancouver. Your options could consist of connections on crappy American based carriers, or maybe a connection on Air Canada, or a non-stop on the world-class Cathay Pacific. The same goes for the JFK to Frankfurt flight on Singapore. There’s many not-so-good options on the route, and then there’s Singapore, which is one of the best. It’s just a more comfortable way to fly, that could be the same price or cheaper than what you may have been looking at.

For a full list of Fifth Freedom Flights, see my list here.

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