Singapore Airlines Relaunches US 5th Freedom Flight After 13 Years

An old fifth freedom route is being revived by Singapore Airlines, connecting Taipei to Los Angeles. However, given the current travel restrictions, the route will no be bookable right through. Nevertheless, it adds one more option to those flying between the two countries, as well as valuable cargo capacity. The route is set to launch on August 25th.

Singapore Airlines is relaunching an old fifth freedom route. Photo: Singapore Airlines

Singapore returns to an old stomping ground

Singapore Airlines is set to return to another of its iconic fifth freedom routes, this time one that it hasn’t appeared on since 2008. The route, between Los Angeles and Taipei, has been devoid of SIA service for the past 13 years, when it used to fly the Boeing 777-200ER four times a week. Abut now, according to Mainly Miles, the service is set to restart at the end of this month.

From August 25th, Singapore Airlines will resume the Singapore – Taipei – Los Angeles fifth freedom route, but this time using its state-of-the-art Airbus A350s. The airline will fly the route three times a week, with traffic rights in both directions between Taiwan and the USA.

Schedule times have been published as follows:

  • Singapore to Taipei departs at 11:45 on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, touching down in Taipei at 16:40. The second leg departs TPE at 17:50, arriving in LAX at 15:20.
  • Coming back, the A350 will leave Los Angeles at 00:40 local time, landing back in Taipei at 06:10 the following day. It will then depart TPE at 09:10, finally arriving in Singapore at 13:40.
Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Airbus A350
The airline will use its A350-900s for the route. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

The flight times make for some pretty lengthy journeys, with the Taipei to Los Angeles portion taking 12 and a half hours outbound and 14 and a half hours coming back. Nevertheless, it will provide one of only three direct connections between Taipei and LAX, the others being provided by Taiwanese Eva Air and China Airlines.

Interestingly, although all the freedoms for this route have been granted for passenger transfers, current travel restrictions mean it is not possible to fly between Singapore and Los Angeles on this service. Taiwan is not allowing transit passengers at present, so the service is only bookable either between Singapore and Taipei or between Taipei and Los Angeles.

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Another fifth freedom from SIA

Singapore Airlines is fairly well known for its innovative range of fifth freedom flights. Pre-COVID, it had a total of six on the go, including both short and long-haul options. Back then, its two main shorter fifth freedom routes ran between Melbourne and Wellington, giving Qantas and Air New Zealand some competition on their home turf, and Moscow to Stockholm.

The rest of its previous fifth freedom routes were a lot longer. The iconic SQ1 / SQ2 flight numbers were given to its transpacific route running Singapore – Hong Kong – San Francisco. Another traveled Singapore – Manchester – Houston, and the third was Singapore – Frankfurt – New York.

Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Airbus A350
SIA is well known for its fifth freedom routes. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

The final fifth freedom from pre-COVID times was its SQ11 / SQ12 route between Tokyo and Los Angeles. This was put on ice during the worst of the crisis, but SIA relaunched it in June, just in time for the Olympic Games.

Although many of these fifth freedom routes have not yet restarted, that hasn’t stopped SIA from seeking out new opportunities. Since mid-July, the airline has been flying between Copenhagen and Rome as a fifth freedom service, with some very tasty business class fares on offer for Europeans able to travel. Its low-cost subsidiary Scoot has also been plying the European fifth freedom opportunity, flying between Athens and Berlin from this week onwards.

Although travel restrictions will hamper the passenger demand for the Taipei – Los Angeles service for some time, the cargo carried on this route will make up for the loss of passenger revenue. In time, as border restrictions relax, hopefully, we’ll see the route becoming viable as a passenger-focused operation.