How to fly long-haul planes on short-haul redemptions!

Singapore Airlines announced a new European ‘fifth freedom’ route this week – Moscow to Stockholm, starting on 30th May.  As HFP has also just put a ‘fifth freedom’ flight in the diary for January, I thought it was worth another look at this interesting niche.

This article is about how to fly – often redeeming your Avios – on short haul European business class flights which are flown by long-haul aircraft (ie a 747, 777, 787, A380, A350, A330, A340 etc).

Why would you want to do this? Well, for fun!

European business class flights are rarely exciting. Yes, British Airways offers you an empty middle seat, free champagne and some average food. At the end of the day, though, you are still sat in pretty much the same seat as everyone else.

However, wouldn’t it be great if you could fly a long-haul plane around Europe? It may only be a couple of hours to Madrid, but if you could get yourself a flat-bed seat – and for the same number of Avios as a seat on a standard plane – that would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it?

The reason you can (very occasionally) do this is mainly due to ‘fifth freedom’ flying rights. This allows an aircraft to fly between two countries as a ‘tag’ to another flight. The flight would not be viable if the aircraft could not drop passengers in both cities.

(British Airways has a number of ‘fifth freedom’ flights of its own, around the Middle East and Caribbean.  See this post for details – it is a little out of date though – and how you can book them as Reward Flight Saver.)

There are also some airlines who use long-haul planes around Europe for cargo reasons.

Fifth Freedom flights within Europe

This post from US blog FlyPointyEnd offers a pretty comprehensive list of all of the ‘fifth freedom’ flights currently operating.  Qudos to them for putting this together because it is an ever-changing field.

Here are the intra-European ones worth a look.  These are taken from the FlyPointyEnd list – it is possible that it is not 100% accurate but I am confident in most of it, especially as they even list the new Singapore Airlines Manchester to Houston flight.

I have added the airline alliance the airline is with, so you know whose miles you would need to redeem.  I have excluded flights done with short-haul aircraft.

Air China (Star) – Munich to Athens

Air China (Star) – Barcelona to Vienna

Emirates (no alliance) – Larnaca to Malta

Ethiopian (Star) – Stockholm to Vienna

LAN (oneworld) – Madrid to Frankfurt

Korean Air (SkyTeam) – Vienna to Zurich

Kuwait Airlines (no alliance) – Frankfurt to Geneva

And, coming soon:

Singapore Airlines (Star) – Moscow to Stockholm

If you want to use your Avios points, you only have the LAN flight.

LAN 787 business class

The LAN Madrid to Frankfurt service uses a brand new Boeing 787.  The business class seating is excellent as you can see here from the photo above.

A one way trip in business class is 15,000 Avios plus £17 or £36 of tax depending on which direction you go.

As Anika needs to be down in Spain in January, we are going to give this one a go in 2017!  Look out for a review on Head for Points in about six weeks.

There are also ways of flying long-haul aircraft with Avios on non-Fifth Freedom routes

You could tie in the LAN flight with another long-haul oddity. Iberia often runs a long-haul A330 or A340 from Heathrow to Madrid for cargo purposes.  It tends to be the 6.30pm-ish departure.

I have taken this flight in business class which comes with the new fully flat Iberia seat.

Finnair is also now permanently running A350 aircraft on some Heathrow to Helsinki flights.  Again, this is being done for cargo reasons and so you should be fairly confident that your plane won’t get swapped over.

I reviewed the impressive Finnair A350 business class seat here.  It is well worth trying if you can.

Bits: Regus Express to open in Heathrow T2 and T3, 20% off at Radisson Red Brussels
When reader Tom flew a MiG-29UB for his birthday ......
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  1. You forgot mentioning SQ from Manchester to Munich.. flew it in October in J, there’s no difference from BA CE (sarcasm).

    • PalCsaky says:

      SQ no longer stops in Munich on the way to/from Singapore. It’s now a direct flight to Manchester.

  2. Worth mentioning that BA is rostering a 777 on BA458/459 from Heathrow to Madrid for Summer 17!

    • A 4 class 772ER no less, golds can select F seats!

    • Many thanks for that Philip. We were about to book a trip to Madrid in May and have just done so on BA0458 & BA0459 in ‘Club World’ 😉

    • Attempted to make a dummy booking on this route yesterday and was surprised to see plenty of redemption availability. As SCH I wasn’t offered a choice of seat, do I need to complete the transaction first then go into manage my booking before I can see what seats are offered in J?

      • Peter, I have BA Silver, and for these flights, although I have seats in Club allocated, they are showing as “undefined” on “Request a Seat”, which is also showing me only the F cabin. It isn’t allowing any changes and isn’t showing which seats are taken. The site states “All passengers must have a seat before you continue”. Maybe this is because BA want to, as James says above, allocate the F seats to Gold before offering to us lowly Silver. 😉

  3. Can anyone help, is it possible to use my Amex 2-1 voucher for a trip to Bali? If so how do I book it? It doesn’t come up on reward flights for Avios?

    • As BA doesn’t fly to Bali you’ll have to use the voucher to get as close as you can, e.g. SIN or KUL

      • Was recently considering this as a stopover enroute to PER, plenty of direct flights on local carriers from KUL, much less so from SIN. Now decided to give Bali a miss, short on time.

      • We’re going to Bali at Easter. Into SIN then out of KUL using 241 with Air Asia flights to get us to/from DPS

        • Hey G, you visiting SIN for a few days first I assume or was thete no 241 availability on the BA 787-9 to KUL? Which class F or CW?

        • I wanted to go into and out of SIN only but no F availability both ways so F LHR-SIN on 388 and F KUL-LHR on 789. 4 days in SIN at first (to do things I’ve not done before – I’ve been a few times before) and will now revisit KUL for 2 days. We went 789 to PVG in J in Sep and was v comfortable. Mrs G and I both appreciated the higher cabin pressure and felt fresher on arrival.

          As it’s a slow news day, I’m thinking of a into SCL and out of EZE trip for Q1 2018. Anyone any tips of places to visit / activities?

        • Thanks Ro. You’re a star!

        • Scallder says:

          Genghis – there’s a shorter option for the Inca trail which my wife and I did last year whilst out there on our honeymoon. You do the final day hike (rather than the full four), so you get the train up and jump off at km104 and hike in from there and still arrive at The Sun Gate so get to see Machu Picchu for the first time from there – it really is something and much more magical than arriving by bus from the town (which we did the next day).

          Hiking in like this, also gives you an afternoon in the site once you’ve arrived there (from memory our hike was 5/6 hours and we got to The Sun Gate c2pm), when it’s generally quieter as well. The hike was beautiful and for a shorter version is something I’d definitely recommend. We were given this option as part of a tour we were on around Peru (13 days covering a fair chunk of the country), but I’m sure that you would be able to find somewhere to get a permit to do it yourselves (or perhaps for the two of you to do a local guide). As Ro said the permits do sell out very far in advance (and the 1 day permits come out of the same batch as the 4 day ones I believe), so definitely get on that sooner rather than later.

          In Cusco, also check out Map Café – ignore the café bit in the name, this is a very nice restaurant which my wife had found online and we went there for her birthday (September is now a fairly expensive month going forward!) – definitely highly recommend it and it’s easily equivalent to a lot of fine dining places in London, except you’re paying about a third of the price (if not less…)

        • Hey genghis

          Did a trip to peru and chile Q1 this year. Santiago is a really cool city, loads of art and theatre if you are into that. Dining scene is a real hidden gem…. was extremely impressed. Dinner at Boragó was truly exceptional… comparable to Maido and Central in Lima and thoroughly deserving of its place in the world top 50. Bistro 99 was phenomenal, unexpectadly so. Ambrosia is another great place worth checking out. Also if you are into your history its interesting to learn about the Pinochet era.
          Stayed at the Lastarria Boutique Hotel which I would highly recommend. Great location in a really cool part of town. 3 mins walk away is a superlative wine bar called Bocanariz. A very hipster old school cinema called Cine art Alemeda that does indie english/american films amongst spanish stuff.
          Lotsa great coffee places round the corner too.

          Also went to the atacama desert and again i highly recommend a visit there. The best place in the world to see the night sky. Stunning. Stayed at the hotel Cumbres (also a hotel cumbres in santiago, round the corner from lastarria). Was a beautiful luxury hotel for a very reasonable price (about 150 quid a night). Huge rooms – suite size and extremely private.

        • Got loads more recommendations but i didn’t wanna keep going on and on 😉

        • Thanks Ro. Much appreciated. If you have some more recommendations please keep them coming! Our trip is a blank canvas at the moment so some ideas to work with and a bit of research over Xmas I could pull something together.

          Did you do the Inca trail in Peru?

        • So my trip was relatively last minute – booked it under a month in advance so couldnt get any permits for the inca trail… its important you secure them well in advance (a year ahead ideally).

          So i just got the train to machu pichu and stayed in the town Agua Calientes for one night. Machu is amazing but for me it is ruined by the thousands of tourists, i would spend just a day there max tbh. The belmond hotels are the famous luxury hotels in the area but i was staying in budget accom so cant comment on them.

          I have quite a few friends who have both done machu pichu and the inca trail, every single one of them has said they prefered the inca trail over machu.

          How long are u planning the trip to be? My biggest advice for latin america is people get tempted to see as many countries as possible… i feel that is an error. There is a TON of things to see and do in this stunning part of the world so i would recommend in a month to not go to more than 2 countries. I did 2 action packed weeks in peru and was still a week short – i had to miss out Arequipa and lake titicaca.

          My itinerary was 3 days in lima – great city. The food scene there is truly exceptional. You will easily discover why in 2015 peru earnt more money from food tourism than machu pichu. Went to Central/Maido/Astrid y Gaston/la Piquanteria/la Mar/Malabar amongst several small/local joints/holes in the wall.

          After lima we went to the nazca lines and huacachina. This can be done in express time such as a day or two but we did it nice and slow over 3 days. We went for a day trip to the bellestas islands – known as the “poor man’s galapagos”. Definitely worth it!
          After that went to the peruvian amazon. Stayed at the stunning Refugio Amazonas lodge (run by Rainforest Expeditions). To this day one of the best things ive ever done on my travels. After that went to cusco then ollaytantambo before machu pichu and back to cusco. As mentioned before i would advise you to maximise your time in cusco and limit it in machu pichu (you shouldnt miss machu pichu though). Then i had another day in lima before going to chile.

          Chile is massive too and i would have loved 2 more weeks there (only had 1). Easter island looks incredible (but very expensive), as well as Patagonia.

        • Thank you so much. Will look at those suggestions and try to build out an itinerary. 🙂

        • We’re thinking 3 weeks for this trip. Good advice on trip planning. My wife and I prefer to do things a bit slower now we’re getting older. Travel for us now is as much about seeing stuff as it is about relaxing, eating, a bit of drinking…
          Appreciate your help.

        • Oh I forgot… in chile its also worth going to valparaiso. Its a town by the sea and ive read lots of great things. Only an hour or so from santiago. Didnt get time to check it out unfortunately.

          Excellent bus and underground system in samtiago so very easy to get round by public transport. Uber also works there(and in lima).

          The chilean lake district also looks beautiful.

          Another thing I missed out on was doing some wine tours there. So many in chile. Used to do a lot of them back in Australia…. great cheap way to spend a day!

          Peruvian wine is pretty horrific but if u do the drink pairing at Maido they actually have a couple excellent ones.

          Chile is one of the most expensive countries in south america but its still cheaper than here. Peru is extremely cheap.

        • No worries. Loving helping people out with trips! I would definitely recommend doing only one country then in your three weeks. You can see a lot but at a nice relaxing pace.

        • Ro – thanks for all these tips!! Had never considered this part of the world but you have now whet my appetite!

        • In March I’m flying CX J to Bali on the new LGW route a350 etc. changing in HKG. Cash ticket £1700.

        • On the subject, KLM operates a 777 between SIN and DPS! Excellent revenue fares from £250 return in business!

  4. Alan Wan says:

    I recently managed to do a bargain J class trip from Madrid – Sint Maarten – Miami – JFK – LHR with AA all for £1,000<. For my positioning flight from LHR to MAD, I used avios for an Iberia A340 flight in J class. Best inter EU flight I have ever taken, flat bed, proper IFE and wonderful Torres Brandy.

  5. the-very-real-arry says:


    Come to think of it, Katar Airlines would make more sense 🙂

  6. Worth adding that Air France will be scheduling its brand new 787 on the CDG LHR route over the coming months, for training purposes. Their website contains more info.

  7. barry cutters says:

    hi off topic. but my missus was booked on LHR-Krakow yesterday. was delayed and then eventually cancellle due to the fog.. they we unable to get her a hotel in london apparently, so i just booked her the cp @ £144. will they reimburse us for this? also for food and taxi to the hotel.
    They have re booked he on a flight to warsaw instead tomorrow. so we are unsure how she will get the 260k to krakow….. will they reimburse a taxi to krakow? she’s ba silver and was traveling in club.

    This has annoyed me as i thought being silver would give her some kind of priority to be on the krakow flight today. she had even offered to fly in economy , but they are saying its already full.
    the staff in the lounge we not very helpful last night. she was there a total of 8-9hours yesterday

    • the-very-real-arry says:

      yep keep your receipts for London, should get it all back

      Warsaw —> Krakow – as long as it is a reasonable cost they will reimburse you – In Poland a taxi should be fine as long as it’s not a limo

      I doubt if they are lying about the Krakow flight being full, I imagine it will be over-booked already

      Friday, yesterday & today will be the 3 busiest flying days of the year so far out of LHR

      • Having travelled the WAW-KRK route both by air and train in the last month, I’d recommend either of those options over driving! The trains and comfortable and quick, and the flight is dirt cheap on a nice LOT Embraer…

  8. You can fly on a dreamliner from London to Paris with Air France from Feb 6th next year.

  9. I believe the EK flight LCA-MLA has either finishing or has finished. MLA is to be flown via a point in North Africa iirc.

    Similarly ET are starting direct ARN flights soon which will tag on to OSL. Not sure if ARN-OSL will have fifth freedom rights.

  10. You can fly BA first from LON to Moscow, I think it’s only once a week for 20k avios.

  11. There’s also BAH-DOH route for anyone in the ME, 45min flight..

  12. Iberia A330/340 Madrid – Las Palmas and Air Europa A330 Madrid – Las Palmas/Teneriffa
    Finnair Helsinki-Brussels

  13. for the The LAN (LATAM_ MAD-FrankFurt – i priced a tourist class for £22
    the first class (with three suitcase allowance) was £122 – this was in March some time

    now I just need to convince my work to send me that route instead of LHR-Hamburg next time….

  14. How can I be certain which is the A350 Finnair flight? Is it always a specific departure from LHR?

    • I have found this on the internets if anyone is also interested..

      “Currently Finnair operates the A350 on flights AY831 and the return AY832 on Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday. A fifth service will be added on Wednesday (also AY813 and AY832) from October 5.”