I’ve always been intrigued by fifth freedom routes. If you’re not sure what a fifth freedom flight is, check out this post I wrote a while back. In a nutshell, it is scheduled service between two foreign airports that operates as a continuation of service from an airport within the carrier’s home country. One of the more “famous” is Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong – Vancouver – New York service, which is unfortunately imminently ceasing. Cathay Pacific is based on Hong Kong, but it operates the YVR-JFK segment between the U.S. and Canada as a continuation of the original service from Hong Kong.
That Cathay route was on my list to fly, but it actually didn’t make my top five fifth freedom flights a couple years ago. Neither did the route I recently booked. But I’m still super excited to finally be flying my first fifth freedom flight.
An Unexpected Fifth Freedom Flight Option
I’m planning a quick solo jaunt to Copenhagen, similar to the other long weekend trips I took last year to Helsinki and Barcelona. The outbound is the return of a British Airways economy ticket I booked that departed Barcelona. Copenhagen was the cheapest open-jaw option to a destination that interested me. It’ll be fun to spend a few days in Denmark.
But I’ve put off booking a return for months. There aren’t too many decent one-way options for returning to California. The one I’d been tracking closely is a Norwegian return which has fluctuated around $215 one-way from Copenhagen to San Francisco. Not a bad price. But with the recent changes to their tickets restricting carry-on luggage, I had second thoughts. The ticket would cost me more than that all said and done.
Another idea I was leaning toward was a cheap cash ticket to Dublin from where I would catch a nonstop economy Aer Lingus flight to SFO, booked for just 16,250 Avios. Gotta love off-peak award flights. I have a stash of Avios, and while the value here isn’t fantastic (if you compare to the Norwegian option), I’d rather be flying Aer Lingus. What held me back was the less-than-ideal flight timing getting to Dublin.
I’d looked at business class award options now and then, but given that it is a daytime flight back from Europe, I wasn’t especially interested. Until an option flying Air New Zealand’s fifth freedom route between London and Los Angeles showed up.
Air New Zealand LHR to LAX
Air New Zealand has operated service between Los Angeles and London for years as a fifth freedom flight. The flight originates in Auckland, stops in LAX, continues to London, and then turns around and does the reverse. Given how far New Zealand is from Europe, this is one of the only viable options for getting between this part of the Commonwealth and Great Britain.
This fifth freedom flight has been operating for decades. Sadly, it is being discontinued, which is one of the reasons I was willing to shell out the miles to experience it. I’ve not flown Air New Zealand, and they are among the most difficult carriers for finding business class award space.
I literally found and booked this ticket while walking across New Orleans this past weekend. This option has not previously come up in previous searches, and I wasn’t going to waste any time. I have a stash of United miles, and booking this ticket for 70,000 MileagePlus miles and ~$80 is totally worth it. Plus, I get to fly all the way back to my tiny regional airport on one ticket, rather than terminating in the Bay Area. The overall ticket is CPH-LHR-LAX-ACV, flying SAS Europe business, Air New Zealand 777-300ER business, and United economy.
I Can’t Wait!
I’m super excited about my first fifth freedom flight. I’ve always wanted to fly one, and this one is extra special since the service will be ending this year. Plus, it’s always fun to fly new carriers, and this will be my first time on Air New Zealand.
Have you ever flown this route? What did you think? Have you flown other fifth freedom flights?