As part of their ongoing shake up of routes and fleet, Emirates are considering launching more fifth freedom routes to the US.
Following a year of slower growth and thinking about a future devoid of the A380, Emirates have been hard at work redefining their ongoing strategy. CEO Tim Clark has said they are putting all of their routes ‘under the microscope’, as reported by Bloomberg.
As part of this shake up, Emirates are looking to India as a key market for the airline. They have also planned to become more closely integrated with FlyDubai, although a merger is still not on the cards. Notably. However, Clark is apparently considering more fifth freedom routes to the US.
These controversial route types have seen the Middle East carriers locking horns with the biggest airlines in the US in the past. Although an agreement was signed this time last year to end the ugly dispute, new one stop route between Dubai and the US could stir things up all over again.
What is a fifth freedom route?
Back in 1944, the Convention on International Civil Aviation was born. Known simply as the Chicago Convention, this set out some basic rights about air transit and traffic. Five freedoms have evolved from this, which to this day ensure the freedom of aviation around the world.
These include the freedom to fly over another country, the freedom to land in another country if you aren’t picking up or dropping off passengers, the freedom to fly from your country to another country and the freedom to fly back again.
The fifth freedom is described as ‘The freedom to fly between two foreign countries on a flight that continues to your own country’. For passengers, fifth freedom routes are a great way to get a taste of a far flung airline without paying the high ticket price for a long haul journey.
For example, passengers in the US can fly Cathay Pacific without ever leaving North America, as they operate a fifth freedom route between New York and Vancouver. Air New Zealand could take you transatlantic from LA to LHR, or you could hop down to Cuba or Panama with Air China.
Interestingly, airlines need to have traffic rights to class their flight as fifth freedom. This means they can sell tickets for all the route (with the stop), or for just one leg of the route. This opens the door to short haul passengers who want to experience an exotic airline.
Emirates current fifth freedom routes
Right now, of the Middle East three it is only Emirates who operate any fifth freedom routes. Their current schedule includes a New York (JFK) to Dubai service which stops off in Milan, as well as a route flying Newark to Dubai via Athens.
In the past, US carriers have been incensed about these types of routes, claiming that Middle East carriers have an unfair advantage. They say that these airlines are being illegally subsidized by their governments, and that they shouldn’t be allowed to syphon off transatlantic traffic in this way.
However, last May the governments of the US and the UAE signed an agreement which put the dispute to bed once and for all. In the agreement, the UAE carriers agreed to be more transparent in their accounting practices, and also that they did not have any plans to add more fifth freedom routes.
As The Points Guy points out, “…the Gulf carriers say in the deal they don’t have any fifth freedom flights planned — not that they promise to never add any more in the future.” Well, now it seems that the careful way in which they worded that statement could be coming into play.
As to where these would be, it’s anyone’s guess right now. Perhaps they’ll aim to cash in on Jet Airway’s demise with an India-US fifth freedom route, or maybe they’re looking to connect Africa with the US, perhaps through Accra or Lagos? What do you think?