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In aviation, fifth freedom is the right of an airline to transport passengers on a ticket between two foreign countries without entering its home country. In other words, if and airline from the U.S. were to operate flights between two cities outside of the U.S., and the airline could pick up and drop off passengers between those two non-home country cities, the flight would be considered a fifth freedom route.
For you aviation geeks, from Wikipedia:
The fifth freedom allows an airline to carry revenue traffic between foreign countries as a part of services connecting the airline's own country. It is the right to carry passengers from one's own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country (and so on). An example of a fifth freedom traffic right is an Emirates flight in 2004 from Dubai to Brisbane, Australia and onward to Auckland, New Zealand, where tickets can be sold on any sector.:34 Fifth freedom traffic rights are intended to enhance the economic viability of an airline's long haul routes, but tend to be viewed by local airlines and governments as potentially unfair competition.:33–34 The negotiations for fifth freedom traffic rights can be lengthy, because in practice the approval of at least three different nations is required.Note:131
Why Should You Care About Fifth Freedom Routes?
Fifth freedom routes are notable because they are consistently cheap, including premium cabin fares, award availability is usually great, and you often get the chance to fly short to medium haul flights on wide-body aircraft. Because of their location, some airports tend to be involved in more fifth freedom routes than usual, and that is exactly the case of Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE).
Which Airlines and Routes operate through Buenos Aires?
Six major airlines operate fifth freedom routes between EZE and four other South American major cities.
- Air Canada: EZE to Santiago, Chile (SCL) to EZE
Five times a week Air Canada flies a roundtrip between EZE and SCL. The fares for this route are not usually cheap, but award availability is typically good in both economy class and business class, which require only 12,500 miles and 20,000 miles, respectively, with United MileagePlus. This route is easy to include as a stopover on a United or Aeroplan award to South America.
- Air France: Montevideo (MVD) to EZE to MVD
Flying time between MVD and EZE is less than an hour. That does not mean that flights between these two South American capitals are dirt cheap. However, often the most affordable option is Air France, which operates roundtrip flights between EZE and MVD. Award availability is exceptional for FlyingBlue members, but the rates, 15,000 miles for economy class and 37,500 for business class, are high for such a short flight.
- Emirates: Rio de Janeiro (GIG) to EZE to GIG
Emirates operates a daily roundtrip flight between GIG and EZE. One-way fares can be expensive, but roundtrip tickets are reasonable. And when you consider that the only two other non-stop options between EZE and GIG are GOL and Aerolíneas Argentinas, flying Emirates becomes even more attractive. Award availability is good across all classes of service.
- KLM: EZE to SCL to EZE
Four times a week KLM flies from EZE to SCL before continuing to Amsterdam. The economy class fares for this flight tend to be among the cheapest for this route. Award availability is excellent for FlyingBlue members. The award rate for economy class, 15,000 miles, is not bad, but the business class rate, 37,500 miles, is excessive.
- Qatar Airways: Sao Paulo (GRU) to EZE to GRU
Qatar operates daily roundtrips between GRU and EZE. One-way fares can be expensive, but roundtrip tickets are reasonable. In fact, a few searches consistently showed Qatar economy class tickets to be the cheapest on this route. Unfortunately, award availability is not great on this route, but if you can find availability, the BA Avios rates are exceptional: 7,500 Avios in economy class and 15,000 Avios in business class.
- Turkish Airlines: GRU to EZE to GRU
Turkish also operates daily roundtrips between GRU and EZE. As with Qatar, one-way fares can be expensive, but roundtrip tickets are not bad. Turkish's roundtrip fares between GRU and EZE appear to be similar to Qatar's, but slightly higher. Unfortunately, it does not look like Turkish makes this route available for awards.
Fifth Freedom Routes Provide Additional Options
South American airlines are rarely glamorous and can sometimes be unreliable. The next time you plan a trip to South America that includes a stop in Buenos Aires, make sure to keep these fifth freedom routes in mind. At the very least, they are likely to provide the most comfortable options regardless of class of service.
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