One of the nicest ways to fly between Vancouver and New York’s JFK airport is coming to an end, as The Points Guy reports that Cathay Pacific is scrapping its fifth freedom flight between the two North American cities in April 2020.
Cathay Pacific’s CX888 and the return CX865, the Hong Kong-New York-Hong Kong flights with a pitstop at Vancouver in either direction, have been operating for 23 years. Philippe Lacamp, Cathay Pacific’s senior vice president for the Americas, admitted to The Points Guy that the route was a one-off, something for the frequent flyer obsessives and fifth freedom fans.
“It’s our little secret. We’re very sorry to see it go.”
The route has been losing money
But in the end, it has come down to simple economics. Philippe Lacamp also said;
“Frankly this tag operation has been losing money for a number of years…We’re very sorry to see it go. Having said that, I can’t argue with it. I’ve seen the numbers.”
In a statement provided to Simple Flying, a spokesperson for Cathay Pacific said;
“Cathay Pacific regularly reviews its network in order to ensure the most efficient aircraft deployment and scheduling.”
The cancellation of the service comes as airline’s embrace the trend of point to point long haul flights. Stopovers are great for turbocharging miles, bumping up status, and hoeing through some fishball noodle soup in the Cathay lounge. But only a hardcore bunch of passengers care about that. Most people just want to get to their destination as quickly as possible.
To that end, Cathay Pacific still offers three return non-stop flights each daily between Hong Kong and JFK and will add more when via Vancouver flights cease. There is also a daily return service between Hong Kong and Newark.
Cathay does acknowledge that Hong Kong-Vancouver flights will drop back to double daily but will upsize its aircraft on the route to 777-300s. Cathay Pacific told Simple Flying;
“Vancouver has been an integral part of Cathay Pacific’s network since non-stop Hong Kong flights were introduced in 1983… it remains a vital market for Cathay Pacific.”
Cathay Pacific fifth freedom flights
The Vancouver-JFK flights are Cathay Pacific’s only fifth freedom flight in North America and one of only two outside Asia. The route had the added bonus of having good award seat availability.
Cathay’s remaining fifth freedom flight outside Asia will be CX746 between Bahrain and Dubai and the return CX745.
There is also a fifth freedom Cathay Pacific flight between Singapore and Bangkok. The remainder of Cathay’s fifth freedom flights operate out of Taipei, flying to Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo, and Nagoya.
These types of flights are popular because they are generally inexpensive, use better than average aircraft on that route, and award availability is frequently okay.
Ben Mutzabaugh acknowledged this in The Points Guy story. He noted that the route was popular with frequent flyers and the type of people who preferred to fly a premium Asian carrier rather than an often less than premium North American carrier.
While some airlines, such as Emirates, are looking to increase the number of fifth freedom routes they fly, the advent of longer-range fuel-efficient aircraft means that many fifth freedom routes are endangered.
Point to point flying is efficient, but lacks the adventure of a cut bargain premium cabin status run through parts of the world you wouldn’t normally fly to – and fifth freedom routes are perfect for that sort of thing.
Simple Flying reached out to Cathay Pacific for comment but had not heard back from them prior to publication.
Got a favorite fifth freedom flight? Let us know and post a comment.