Surprising: Singapore Airlines’ LAX To Tokyo Fifth Freedom Flight Returns

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Airlines are working on slowly rebuilding their route networks after global travel more or less came to a standstill in early 2020. This is especially true of international routes, which have been impacted by border restrictions. Here’s an interesting route update from Singapore Airlines.

Singapore Airlines adds back fifth freedom route

Historically Singapore Airlines has operated several fifth freedom flights to the United States, including from Frankfurt to New York, Hong Kong to San Francisco, Manchester to Houston, and Tokyo to Los Angeles. The airline is now planning on restoring the first of those routes, which will also be the first time in over a year that the airline offers first class to the United States.

As of June 16, 2021, Singapore Airlines will be resuming its fifth freedom flight between Tokyo Narita and Los Angeles. This is part of a larger rotation all the way between Singapore and Los Angeles. The flight will operate 5x weekly with the following schedule:

SQ12 Singapore to Tokyo departing 9:25AM arriving 5:30PM
SQ12 Tokyo to Los Angeles departing 6:40PM arriving 12:50PM

SQ11 Los Angeles to Tokyo departing 2:20PM arriving 5:50PM (+1 day)
SQ11 Tokyo to Singapore departing 7:00PM arriving 1:15AM (+1 day)

Singapore Airlines’ first restored fifth freedom flight to the USA

To me the addition between Tokyo and Los Angeles is most interesting, given that Singapore Airlines already flies nonstop from Singapore to Los Angeles, and also already flies between Singapore and Tokyo.

The fifth freedom flight covers a distance of 5,458 miles, and is blocked at 10hr10min eastbound and 11hr30min westbound.

Singapore Airlines will use a four cabin Boeing 777-300ER for the route, featuring first class, business class, premium economy, and economy.

Singapore Airlines 777 business class

Why this flight addition is kind of surprising

Given the distance between Singapore and the United States, historically a majority of Singapore Airlines’ capacity between the two countries has been via third countries, thanks to fifth freedom routes.

However, for the time being Singapore Airlines is only operating nonstop flights from Singapore to the United States, to Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. These are among the longest flights in the world.

Personally I’m a bit surprised to see Singapore Airlines add back the Tokyo to Los Angeles fifth freedom flight so soon:

  • Japan’s borders continue to be largely closed, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, especially with the country seeing a spike in coronavirus cases
  • There continues to be a good amount of capacity between Japan and the United States among Japanese and American carriers, though I assume that’s primarily about cargo
  • With this addition, Singapore Airlines is also increasing capacity between Singapore and Tokyo, which seems like a strange time to do so, given the extent to which both countries are closed

I would have to imagine that Singapore Airlines sees cargo as the big motivator here, because I just don’t see this being about a return of tourism between Japan and the United States anytime soon.

Singapore Airlines 777 first class

Bottom line

Singapore Airlines will be restoring its first fifth freedom flight to the United States since the start of the pandemic, which will be between Tokyo and Los Angeles. The airline will fly the route 5x weekly using a 777. This will be the first time in over a year that Singapore Airlines offers first class to the United States.

Personally I’m surprised to see a flight between Tokyo and Los Angeles restored so soon, given that Japan’s borders remain mostly closed.

What do you make of Singapore Airlines restoring its flight between Japan and the United States?

Conversations (27)
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  1. echino

    What kind of First class is on that plane? Is there availability to book it using miles?

  2. W

    AA has sub $300 Round Trip economy fares from Miami to Tokyo from the end of 2021 to 2022, and around $1,000 R/T Premium Economy from Fort Lauderdale.

  3. ConcordeBoy

    Cargo is a huge driver.

    It's also the main reason that standard-A359s (but only the 280tonne WVs) fly the SIN-LAX nonstop, whereas A359ULRs op the SFO and JFK (yes, JFK not EWR) nonstops... as without the 77W's daily service, belly-cargo is sparse at LAX despite high demand even during the pandemic.

    The standard has the option of cargo in the forward belly hold, whereas the -ULRs do not. Sucks to lose so many J seats at LAX without the -ULRs though.

  4. Icarus

    @Raj possibly, however no foreign visitors are permitted. As far as I know SQ had around 12 non stops already pre Covid
    Perhaps they’ll increase U.K. flights since from next week Singapore is on the green list

  5. MACH81

    Maybe it’s for the multitude of athletes and their equipment that will need to go to Japan for the olympics as somebody else wrote

  6. jordan23

    @N

    This route had the A380. Happy I got to fly it then

  7. Joe Jones

    Japanese nationals and residents can still travel betwen Japan and the US. The main hurdle is having to quarantine at home for 2 weeks after entering Japan. A number of my friends in Japan have been traveling to the US recently to get vaccinated.

  8. John

    Could someone explain “it’s about cargo” to me?

    In normal non-pandemic times, when planes are flying full with passengers, do those planes not have the capacity to carry as much cargo? If so, how is that cargo being delivered under normal times.

    If these planes also carry a lot of cargo during normal times, I am surprised that there are many routes in which cargo plus a few passengers makes a route viable in...

    Could someone explain “it’s about cargo” to me?

    In normal non-pandemic times, when planes are flying full with passengers, do those planes not have the capacity to carry as much cargo? If so, how is that cargo being delivered under normal times.

    If these planes also carry a lot of cargo during normal times, I am surprised that there are many routes in which cargo plus a few passengers makes a route viable in pandemic times unless it is *robustly* profitable in non-pandemic times.

  9. Dominic Yeo

    ANA might not be resuming international service. They spent a lot on Tokyo Olympics and they are getting nothing. I was told to expect that SQ might takeover ANA routes ex HND too.

    My bro, a pilot for SQ, said UA invited them to SFO for a meeting to get acquainted when they resumed SFO SIN. UA is offering SQ an olive branch.

    Asia will see massive changes in allegiances. And SQ's recovery, especially...

    ANA might not be resuming international service. They spent a lot on Tokyo Olympics and they are getting nothing. I was told to expect that SQ might takeover ANA routes ex HND too.

    My bro, a pilot for SQ, said UA invited them to SFO for a meeting to get acquainted when they resumed SFO SIN. UA is offering SQ an olive branch.

    Asia will see massive changes in allegiances. And SQ's recovery, especially for long haul... It might not revive at all, actually. THe only way to revive them, is for SQ to JV with UA, which will give them access to AV AD CM LA in addition to G3.

  10. Andrew

    I'm going to second Olympics. Media, IOC, coaches, athletes... there are a whole lot of reasons more capacity will be needed June -> August.

  11. Trey

    yea, I'd also like to know about the "cargo" situation. Are they blocking some seats for cargo or is the entire cabin open to passengers? Also, do you anticipate fairly empty cabins..where it really doesn't make sense to pay for premium economy over standard Y for example?

  12. Daniel

    There are already some Advantage Level First Class Award between SIN and LAX bookable with SQ miles. Hopefully Saver Level will be made available soon!

  13. ORDnHKG

    @ Dominic Yeo -

    I don't know where you hear about NH is not resuming intl service, as many NH intl flights had been flying which include NH 5/6 LAX-NRT

    SQ has had bad relationship with UA since SQ join *A, SQ never even codeshare with UA and instead SQ codeshare with non alliance partner B6 in US, so there is zero way for SQ to JV with UA, also in years past SQ deny UA pax to use it's lounge at SFO (the same place now become part of UA Polaris lounge)

  14. ORDnHKG

    @ Andrew - SQ is not the only airline flying this route, there is JL61/62 and NH5/6 already

  15. ORDnHKG

    @ John, Trey - cargo means they are not expecting much pax load, so they can load more heavy cargo, cargo weigh a lot more than pax and their luggage, it is not like a plane doesn't have the capacity for cargo, weigh is the most important factor, there is something called payload range, which is the heavier the plane, the less range (distance) a plane can fly nonstop, you might see many 747 and...

    @ John, Trey - cargo means they are not expecting much pax load, so they can load more heavy cargo, cargo weigh a lot more than pax and their luggage, it is not like a plane doesn't have the capacity for cargo, weigh is the most important factor, there is something called payload range, which is the heavier the plane, the less range (distance) a plane can fly nonstop, you might see many 747 and 777 freighters stop at ANC if they fly from US to Asia, ANC is a refueling stop purposes. UA is still currently flying many transpacific routes ORD-NRT-HKG, LAX-HKG, even LAX-NRT, but it is cargo only. Even in the past when UA was flying ORD-HKG on 744, it wasn't unheard of at HKG they IDB multiple pax in order to put more cargo under the belly, cargo worth much more $$$ than pax

  16. Christian

    @Ben - Can a U.S. citizen fly this route without restrictions if they don't deplane in Tokyo?

  17. Niko_jas

    @ordnhkg
    What's the history behind United and SQ being enemies despite being in Star Alliance together? Would be interesting to know.

  18. Chuck

    @echino, what kind of first class? Um, the good kind? To see award availability, check Singapore's website.

  19. Peter Brown

    United has the worst service in all classes. SQ the best in the Star Alliance. No brainer!!!

  20. Jesper

    @ Christian

    Yes, you can transit in Tokyo without being able to enter the country. The transit option was never blocked. As long as you have a connection to a country where you have the right and possibility to enter.

  21. RTBones

    @Christian - you can certainly travel the route. Japan allows transiting. However, you would need a valid reason (i.e. not tourism) to enter Singapore. So unless you were just going to Singapore to stay at the airport or were going on business, you wouldnt be able to enter.

    https://safetravel.ica.gov.sg/arriving/overview

  22. Joe

    Not sure what the point is. Are they going to let anyone fly in/out anytime soon? Doubt it.

  23. Andrew

    ORDnHKG - agreed. But flying for 3-4 high-demand months is more profitable than how those other routes have fared for the last 12.

    My guess is this route will disappear in August unless Japan has a reopening timeline in place by then.

  24. 30west

    Curious how many 5th freedom routes there are, and the history behind them. For example, why is USA and Gremany ok with SQ doing NYC-FRA?

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30west

Curious how many 5th freedom routes there are, and the history behind them. For example, why is USA and Gremany ok with SQ doing NYC-FRA?

Andrew

ORDnHKG - agreed. But flying for 3-4 high-demand months is more profitable than how those other routes have fared for the last 12. My guess is this route will disappear in August unless Japan has a reopening timeline in place by then.

Joe

Not sure what the point is. Are they going to let anyone fly in/out anytime soon? Doubt it.

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