Coronavirus Prompts Juneyao To Delay European Fifth Freedom Routes

Shanghai-based Juneyao Air has decided to postpone the inauguration of its new routes to Europe. Its planned fifth freedom flights from Shanghai to Dublin, Manchester and Reykjavik via Helsinki have been postponed until further notice.

Juneyao 787
Juneyao Air suspends commencement of planned fifth freedom routes. Photo: Juneyao Air

New routes postponed indefinitely

The Shanghai-based carrier was set to commence three new fifth freedom routes to Europe in late March this year. However, as the airline announced in an official statement on its Facebook page, the outbreak of the coronavirus has resulted in the routes’ indefinite delay.

The planned routes of Dublin-Shanghai, Manchester-Shanghai and Reykjavik-Shanghai, with stops in Helsinki, have now been postponed until further notice. Passengers who had already booked tickets for these flights are offered a full refund. Juneayo’s existing daily Helsinki-Shanghai flight that was introduced in June 2019 will remain in operation. 

Juneyao Airlines
Juneyao Air was set to commence routes to three European destinations in March 2020. Photo: Getty Images

Fifth freedom flights

A fifth freedom flight is an international route that neither originates or ends in the airline’s home country. Meaning it allows the airline of country A to make a stop, disembarking and embarking passengers, in country B, to then continue onward to country C. And completing the same procedure on the way back to its original destination. 

This leg can be booked as a stand-alone journey and is often an opportunity for a bargain as airlines are keen to fill seats. It also provides passengers with the opportunity to experience better business class while traveling in Europe, or simply the comfort of a widebody aircraft on routes usually trafficked by narrowbody models.

There are currently around 230 fifth freedom flights in operation globally. The largest numbers are operated by LOT Polish Airlines, RwandAir, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways.

The introduction of these fifth freedom routes would have seen Juneyao join Sichuan Airlines as one of two Chinese carriers flying onwards to Europe via Helsinki. Sichuan Airlines began operations of its Chengdu-Helsinki-Copenhagen routing in September 2019.

Further freedoms of the air

The first freedom of aviation allows one country’s aircraft to fly over another country’s airspace while on its way to a third country destination. A so-called second freedom flight is one that allows an airline the right to stop in a country other than the destination for a fuel refill or maintenance without disembarking passengers or cargo.

The third freedom allows one country’s airline to carry passengers from its own state to another. The fourth freedom allows it to return them back to origin. 

Juneyao and China Airlines
Chinese aviation has seen massive losses due to coronavirus. Photo: Getty Images

When will Asian aviation recover?

Chinese tourism to Europe continues to grow with over 6 million Chinese visiting the continent in 2018. Many travelers become increasingly interested in locations beyond the major direct destinations. Therefore it is no wonder that an airline that has its sights set on international expansion is eager to commence routes to the further reaches of the continent. When and how Asian aviation will completely recover from the impact of the coronavirus and kick back into expansion gear remains to be seen. What are your thoughts on the time-frame?  

Juneyao Air is one of the leading privately-owned carriers on mainland China with about 160 routes. It began operations in 2006 and only commenced long-haul international operations in 2019. In May 2017 it became the first airline to become part of the Star Alliance Connecting Partner program. It was joined earlier this week by THAI Smile Airways.