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How to fly long-haul planes on short-haul European flights

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This article is about how to fly short haul European business class flights which use 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 or Helsinki, 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’s pretty cool.

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.

There are also some airlines who use long-haul planes around Europe for cargo reasons.  Whilst they are not on the list below, because they are not ‘fifth freedom’ flights, you have – for Avios redemption:

Heathrow to Madrid on both BA and Iberia (one flight each per day is long-haul, see my Iberia A350 review here)

Heathrow to Helsinki on Finnair (one flight per day is long-haul, see my Finnair A350 review here)

BA will also occasionally use long-haul aircraft on Heathrow to Moscow – there is a Boeing 787 being used in October.  There is also, for Star Alliance redemptions:

Heathrow to Istanbul on Turkish (some flights each day are on a Boeing 777, see my Turkish Boeing 777 review here)

Fifth Freedom flights within Europe

This article 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 and keeping it updated 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.

I have added the airline alliance the airline is with, so you know whose miles you would need to redeem.  I have only included flights on long-haul aircraft.

Emirates (no alliance) – Larnaca to Malta

Ethiopian (Star Alliance) – Stockholm to Oslo

Hainan Airlines (no alliance) – Dublin to Edinburgh

LATAM (oneworld) – Madrid to Frankfurt

MIAT Mongolian Airlines (no alliance) – Berlin to Moscow

Korean Air (SkyTeam) – Vienna to Zurich

Kuwait Airlines (no alliance) – Frankfurt to Geneva

Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance) – Moscow to Stockholm

If you want to use your Avios points, you only have the LATAM flight between Madrid and FrankfurtWe reviewed this here.  A one way trip in business class is 15,000 Avios plus £17 or £36 of tax depending on which direction you go.

Personally, I like the sound of flying MIAT Mongolian Airlines, an airline I can honestly say I had never even heard of before I wrote this article.

There are other European airlines which run occasional routes using long-haul aircraft, similar to the Iberia service to London, but they are not included above as there is no comprehensive list available.  I think the Madrid, Finnair, Moscow and Istanbul services are the only ones from Heathrow.

Fifth Freedom flights which start in Europe

It is also worth highlighting Fifth Freedom flights which start in Europe but go elsewhere.  These flights are often easy to get as frequent flyer redemptions because they are rarely full for the second leg.

Air China (Star Alliance) – Madrid to Sao Paulo

Air India (Star Alliance) – London Heathrow to New York

Air New Zealand (Star Alliance) – London Heathrow to Los Angeles

Emirates (no alliance) – Athens to New York

Emirates (no alliance) – Milan to New York

Ethiopian (Star Alliance) – Dublin to Los Angeles 

Eva Airways (Star Alliance) – Amsterdam to Bangkok

Eva Airways (Star Alliance) – Vienna to Bangkok

Eva Airways (Star Alliance) – London Heathrow to Bangkok

Jet Airways (no alliance but a Virgin partner) – Amsterdam to Toronto

Qantas (oneworld) – London Heathrow to Singapore

Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance) – Manchester to Houston

Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance) – Frankfurt to New York


HFP-Barclaycard-Avios-Card

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2022)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

30,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (99)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Jake Mcloughlin says:

    Also what about the respective trips from London (and potentially others) to Istanbul and Moscow on Turkish and Aeroflot respectively.

    Both of them fly wide bodies on certain services.

    Heard the food on Turkish is great and new lounge would be worth checking out!!!

    • Oh Matron! says:

      Flew IST-FRS return last month. Can honestly say it makes BA look like Ryanair (which isn’t hard).

      Great food, great IFE (despite being on a A320 / 737 (can’t remember)

    • Lumma says:

      I did LHR to Istanbul on Turkish in economy on the 777 one way and the A330 on the way back. Decent economy meal with beer and wine, the 777 was more modern and had bigger IFE screens but the A330 is pairs of seats at the window would be good for couples. Probably preferable to flying club Europe on a narrowbody to be honest, unless you must have an empty seat next to you.

      Business is full flat beds although the 777 has a middle seat in a 2-3-2 layout. It’s expensive for cash tickets but then BA is expensive in club on that route too

    • Alex Sm says:

      Turkish has one of the best food offerings in Europe (their catering company is soon going to be working for BA as we all heard from Rob recently)

  • English teacher of Tunbridge Wells says:

    It’s kudos, dear boy, kudos. Great article.

  • Nick says:

    As Moscow’s included, it’s worth remembering that BA fly long haul planes to Moscow (but still cap taxes with reward flight saver) -don’t they?

    • Rob says:

      All A321 now I think.

      • Nick says:

        My mate flew it on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, and had the full lie-flat CW seat- do some A321s have that?

        • Phil says:

          Yes. Front facing and some a single seat where you would normally have 3. Flew to Moscow in February on a 321 out and 787 return both CW lie flat…

  • David2910 says:

    How about sq378 between MXP and BCN? A350 if I recall correctly. Perhaps not able to pick up/drop off for that intra Europe leg though.

  • Rob says:

    Technically not Fifth Freedom routes of course!

    • marcw says:

      Neither are the IB/BA to MAD or the LHR to HEL.

      But surely the point is flying big planes on short routes.

      • Bagoly says:

        This raises an interesting point.
        Traditionally the correct term would be “widebody” or “twin-aisle” v “narrowbody” or “single aisle”.
        On Mainline Carriers, widebodies had seats intended for sleeping in at the front; single-aisle did not.
        So “short-haul aircraft” and “long-haul aircraft” were fairly precise, even if technically incorrect.

        Some “big” planes got used on “short” routes as mentioned here, and some “small” planes on “longish” routes (E.g. London to Moscow)

        But now we are seeing single-aisle aircraft with sleep-suitable seats up front (E.g. the one used for BA001, Mint on JetBlue, and the new Aer Lingus ones coming)
        What should we call them?
        SAWS (Single Aisle With Sleeping seats) ? SALH (Single Aisle Long Haul)? Other?
        Has the industry already adopted a name?

  • Ben says:

    Don’t Ethiopian have loads of intra-Europe 5th freedom flights?

    • marcw says:

      They used to have some chunky interesting routes (and very cheap). But the majority are gone now. I reckon the OSL-ARN is the only one remaining where they are allowed to take on pax

  • Oh Matron! says:

    Just had a quick look for ARN – MOS (?) being a potential gold run candidate. Obviously you’d need a visa for Moscow if staying. However:

    A weekend in october from ARN to Moscow comes in at 6190 Krona (£533) and nets you 150 Virgin FC Tier points. There didn’t appear to be any first availability (but that could just be that it’s just not available on the ARN – MOS leg)

    Much cheaper way of netting 150 tier points than a transatlantic trip

    I do miss the MAN-MUC run, and have used, in the past the KUL-SIN run in first (which was amazing!)

  • Graham says:

    Dublin to Malaga (Aer Lingus) has one of the rotations on an A330.

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