The Guide to Fifth Freedom Flights
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Ever heard of a fifth freedom flight? Perhaps you haven’t. That’s OK, but it’s important to know what fifth freedom flights are — and how to use them. Why? Because these flights can offer you great flexibility when traveling, as well as a great way to redeem your points and miles.
Let's dig into the nerdy world of fifth freedom routes.
What is a fifth freedom flight?
Have you ever noticed that not all airlines fly everywhere? You won’t, for example, see a United Airlines flight heading from London to Moscow.
This is intentional. Airlines have agreed to maintain traffic on flights to and from their home countries only. This means that while you may see a United routing from New York to London, the plane won’t usually fly from London to other countries.
However, there are rare exceptions. An airline can take off and land from two airports outside of its country as long as it’s doing so en route to its homeland. In practice, this means that you may see a British Airways flight taking off from Sydney, stopping in Singapore, then continuing onward to London. These types of routes are called fifth freedom flights.
» Learn more: A beginner’s guide to traveling on points and miles
The best fifth freedom flights
If you look hard enough, you’ll find fifth freedom flights with many airlines; however, not all of these routes are created equal. Here are some of the most desirable fifth freedom routes on Emirates, Air France and Singapore Air.
1. Emirates fifth freedom flights
Emirates is well-known for its flashy premium-class products, but you’ll have to pay dearly for the experience. For example, a one-way flight from New York-JFK to Dubai in business class will set you back 115,000 Emirates Skywards miles and $592 in taxes and fees.
There’s no denying that it’s nice to ride in business, but at that price? If you’re looking for an Emirates flight, why not consider its fifth freedom route from New York-JFK to Milan? With much lower taxes and fees, it’ll cost you just 72,500 miles and $68.
If you don’t have a lot of Emirates Skywards miles, there's an easy fix. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles and Citi ThankYou points over to Emirates Skywards at a 1:1 ratio.
2. Air France fifth freedom flights
Air France operates a fairly unique flight that originates in Paris. It stops at Los Angeles-LAX and continues onward to French Polynesia. This means passengers can board in Los Angeles and enjoy that classic French service all the way to paradise.
While you may not be flying Air France to take advantage of a fabulous business class product, you may want to consider this fifth freedom flight due to its affordability. Flights out to French Polynesia are notoriously pricey, but Air France will charge you as little as 73,500 Flying Blue miles one-way in business class.
Compare this with American Airlines’ offering with Air Tahiti Nui, which comes out to 80,000 miles.
Economy class seats on Air France are also cheaper, ringing in at 30,500 miles.
American, meanwhile, will charge you 40,000 miles.
Although you’ll pay higher taxes and fees on Air France, you’ll also want to remember that Flying Blue miles are easier to come by. AmEx points, Chase Ultimate Rewards®, Citi ThankYou points and Capital One Miles transfer over to Flying Blue over at a 1:1 ratio.
American AAdvantage miles, meanwhile, are more difficult to earn due to their lack of partnerships with any flexible point currencies.
3. Singapore Airlines' fifth freedom flight
The Houston to Manchester flight outlined earlier isn’t Singapore’s only fifth freedom flight. Another popular option exists between New York-JFK and Frankfurt. This may be more palatable for those living east of Houston, as they won’t need to double back on their way to Europe.
Another exciting part of the New York to Frankfurt route is that these flights operate using an A380, which features Singapore's top-notch first class product. Seats like this don’t come cheap — you’ll pay 86,000 Krisflyer miles to secure a suite.
But it beats the 130,000 miles you’d need to pay on another route.
Singapore Airlines miles can be earned by transferring AmEx points, Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, Citi ThankYou points or Capital One Miles over at a 1:1 ratio.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
How to book fifth freedom flights with miles
Fifth freedom flights can be especially appealing to those traveling on reward flights as you can often score some significantly discounted tickets when compared with an airline’s standard flights.
Consider Singapore Airlines’ fifth freedom route from Houston to Manchester. This nonstop flight takes a little under nine hours and gets you all the way to Europe. Although this is pricier than some other options for European flights, you’ll still find yourself enjoying Singapore’s amazing business class service for just 72,000 miles.
This is in contrast to other reward flights for Singapore Airlines, such as longer the San Francisco to Singapore flight, which runs 95,000 miles and features little availability.
» Learn more: Award sweet spots using Singapore KrisFlyer miles
5th freedom flights, recapped
Fifth freedom flights can be excellent options for those looking for alternate flights. This is true whether you’re an aviation geek wanting to hop on a Singapore flight to Europe or an award traveler searching for expanded award availability.
Not all airlines feature fifth freedom flights, but the ones that do can have some unique routings, including the ability to fly from the U.S. to Milan on Emirates or from Los Angeles to French Polynesia on Air France. No matter your reason for traveling, keep your eyes peeled for these uncommon flight options.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card