5 Coolest Fifth Freedom Routes In Europe

Filed Under: Air China, Ethiopian

I’ve written in the past about fifth freedom routes. For those of you not familiar with fifth freedom routes, these are flights where an airline from one country has the right to operate between two other countries.

These are often operated in conjunction with longhaul flights back to the airline’s home country. To give a few examples:

Cathay Pacific’s 777 first class — not bad for a coast-to-coast flight

Those are just a few examples, and also happen to be among my favorite fifth freedom routes in the US.

For fun I thought it would be cool to look at some fifth freedom routes available in Europe. Why Europe, specifically? Because for regional flights, Europe arguably has among the worst business class products in the world. On most European airlines, business class is simply economy class with a blocked middle seat and better service.

So which fifth freedom flights are available within Europe? Here are five of my favorites on a map:


And here are the details of these flights:

LAN Chile Madrid to Frankfurt

LAN operates a flight from Santiago to Frankfurt via Madrid, and you can book just the segment between Madrid and Frankfurt. I took this flight just last week. The flight is operated daily by a 787 with the following schedule:

LA704 Madrid to Frankfurt departing 3:15PM arriving 5:50PM
LA705 Frankfurt to Madrid departing 7:30PM arriving 10:05PM

Best of all, fares on this flight are usually quite cheap in business class, so it’s a great way to rack up oneworld miles. Plus, you can’t beat having a flat bed with a great Chilean wine on such a short flight.

Unfortunately this route is being cut in June 2020.

LAN-787-Business-Class - 5
LAN’s 787 business class

Singapore Airlines Munich to Manchester

This is the only intra-Europe flight where you may be faced with the tough question of “Dom or Krug?” Singapore Airlines operates a three cabin 777-300ER between Munich and Manchester daily, which is in conjunction with their flight from Singapore. The flight’s schedule is as follows:

SQ328 Munich to Manchester departing 6:10AM arriving 7:25AM
SQ327 Manchester to Munich departing 8:45AM arriving 11:50AM

Singapore’s 777 first class

Ethiopian Airlines Vienna to Stockholm

While perhaps not the most glamorous of the fifth freedom routes, it is a unique and fun one. Ethiopian flies between Addis Ababa and Vienna, and then offers continuing service to Stockholm, rather than having the plane sit on the ground all day in Vienna. Instead the plane “only” has about 12 hours of downtime in Stockholm.

The flight operates with the following schedule:

ET724 Vienna to Stockholm departing 6:50AM arriving 8:05AM
ET725 Stockholm to Vienna departing 8:15PM arriving 10:20PM

This flight is typically operated by a 787 (which Ethiopian is installing flat beds on), though is also sometimes operated by a 777, which already features flat beds.

Ethiopian’s 787 business class

Korean Air Vienna to Zurich

This flight is interesting in that Korean Air essentially operates a “triangle” route. They fly from Seoul to Vienna to Zurich to Seoul. So this fifth freedom flight is only useful from Vienna to Zurich, and not the other way around.

The flight is operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, featuring Korean Air’s fully flat first class product. The schedule is as follows:

KE933 Vienna to Zurich departing 6:10PM arriving 7:35PM

Korean Air’s 777 first class

Air China Munich to Athens

Air China operates two intra-Europe fifth freedom flights, between Vienna and Barcelona, and also between Munich and Athens. Both are operated by A330 aircraft. The Munich to Athens flight operates with the following schedule:

CA961 Munich to Athens departing 6:55AM arriving 10:30AM
CA962 Athens to Munich departing 11:30AM arriving 12:55PM

It’s a fun way to get to Greece, and certainly better than Lufthansa’s regionally configured aircraft in the market.

Air China’s 777 business class

Bottom line

These aren’t the only fifth freedom routes within Europe, though they are among my favorites. Keep in mind that airlines operating fifth freedom routes often have much better fares than the airlines offering multiple frequencies in a market. So fifth freedom routes not only often a superior inflight experience, but will often also save you money.

While it may take some effort to get onto one of these flights due to the lack of frequencies, it sure can be a treat when you manage to book one.

Which fifth freedom flight do you most want to take?

  1. Not to forget (PEK)-VIE-BCN-VIE-(PEK) with Air China as well as FRA-GVA with Kuwait Airways. Unfortunately Kuwait Airways is flying that route with a A330 now, some months ago they were using their 744 for that route.

  2. Those would actually be 8th freedom flights given that they are from and to Schengen states. ATH-MAN does remain 5th freedom, though, because the UK is not a Schengen state.

  3. This is actually quite interesting in that there are so many freedoms. Looks like Lucky has some learning to do rather than use the Fifth Freedom shorthand.

    I’m not sure anyone needs a flat bed on a 1.5-2 hour long flight. But certainly added comfort is nice.

    I did the HKG-BKK EK flight in A380 F a few years ago. I think I paid something like US$650 for that leg.

  4. It’s not intra-European and it may not technically be a fifth freedom route, but I have always been intrigued by the JFK-Riga sector of Uzbekistan Airlines’ flight to Tashkent.

  5. @B Owen
    Yeah, first of all, it’s LGW. And second, the airline will end that route as of March 30th, as they begin five-weekly Jakarta-Singapore-London Heathrow-Jakarta service.

  6. Hey Lucky.

    Neither the Korean or Singapore flight shows up in ITA Matrix with an F cabin, only J for sale.

    Only F cabin 5 freedom that is bookable in Europe is the Emirates LCA-MLA A340 on MON and WED.

  7. MAD-FRA on LAN is amazing. I’ve flown it now once and booked it again for 136 eur(all-in, one way) in business class. Truly good value for money!

  8. I just booked the LAN MAD-FRA flight, one way, too! I was trying to figure out how to get from southern France near Spain to Germany for my return flight, and this worked out the be the cheapest AND best option!! Perfect timing! 🙂

  9. Alright, I’m an idiot.

    Could someone please enlighten me on the derivation of the term “fifth freedom”? What does “fifth” refer to? And what’s the deal with “freedom”?

    How did this term come to be?

  10. What about MXP-BCN with SQ? I know SQ can’t sell seats on that segment alone, but as passengers can embark and disembark in MXP as the flight continues from/to BCN, doesn’t that make it a fifth freedom route?

  11. Planning a Madrid trip this year with hopes of doing LH F ex-FRA. LAN J looks like a great positioning flight, hahah.

  12. @No Name
    Flew the first half of that route, DXB-LCA last year on an old A330 in F. The service was true EK first class, including Dom, but the hard product was nothing to get excited about (except the novelty factor). No suites on that route. Still, for a regional route, compared to even QR and GF who operate narrowbodies on the same route, it was quite nice.

    @AKGuy – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedoms_of_the_air

  13. Taking EK CHC/SYD in a few weeks. That will be my first ‘fifth freedom’ route without continuing on to the flights eventual destination.

    F was only about twice the price of Y, so a nice chance to check out EK F if only for 3 hours or so.

  14. I went on BA SIN to SYD on redemption F. It was my first ever Fcl trip, I was greatly disappointed. But maybe that’s why I enjoyed my return trip on QF so much. Looking forward to my next 5th trip, EK HKGBKK,vv

  15. Adding to the mix:
    EK LCA-ATH-LCA on a 3-class 777, 5 times a week

    @antiregime : Who actually flies ATH-MAN? I wasn’t aware of that one! Your point on 8th freedom is an interesting one. But I believe those are still 5th freedoms. In the EU, a single aviation market does not mean a single country.
    @AKguy: http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=fifth+freedom+rights 🙂

  16. AK Guy

    First freedom: to fly over a territory without landing.
    Second freedom: to land in a territory for non traffic purposes, such as refuelling or maintenance.
    Third freedom: to take traffic (passengers or cargo) from the airline’s home country to another state.
    Fourth freedom: to take traffic from a country to the airline’s home country.
    Fifth freedom: an airline enroute to or from its home state can take traffic from a second state to a third state.

  17. @Ben. How is it beneficial for Korean to do such a 5th freedom route? Not enough business going back from Vienna to Seoul Direct? Probably other asian traffic routing through Seoul to go to Vienna is my guess.

  18. @JJ The purpose of fifth freedom flights in many cases is to combine two marginal routes into a direct flight that has sufficient yield. This is achieved by selling 3 different markets for the same flight. AAA-BBB, AAA-CCC and BBB-CCC.

    Some fifth freedom flights are due to nonstop flights being non-viable (impossible or insufficient yield due to capacity constraints to fly the distance). In these cases the fifth freedom leg provides a revenue top-up but is not the main driver for the transit stop.

  19. Hi Lucky –

    This is slightly off-topic, but there are two Fifth Freedom routes in South America that I’m finding very helpful: EZE-GRU on QR, and EZE-SCL on KL. When local carriers are offering narrow bodies, often with coach only, these 777s with real business class make a difference.

  20. Not Europe, but LAN and Emirates offer 5th freedom flights between SYD and AKL, both directions. Have done both, last year. They are very popular and offer up a stack of QF (code-share) SCs too!

  21. The Korean Vienna-Zurich flight can be booked, even in economy class. The catch though is that it is not sold on either the Korean website or most travel agency websites. If however you phone Korean and ask nicely, they will still sell you a one-way ticket. I think this leg operates only in winter, not in summer. It’s priced on the expensive side compared to Swiss or Austrian.

    Separately, there’s another 5th freedom route in Europe – Belavia’s flights between Budapest and Belgrade. Has the additional benefit of getting to fly with Belavia without having to get a visa for Belarus. Then again, most people reading this post would probably be quite keen to go to Belarus and try to fly on some old Soviet-era aircraft.

  22. Hmm, are you sure they (ET) will have traffic rights on that (BRU-MAN)? They currently fly BRU-VIE-ADD but they don’t have traffic rights on the BRU-VIE leg.

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