Switzerland’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has granted a UAE request to operate fifth freedom services between Switzerland. This could allow Emirati carriers to operate up to fourteen (14) Geneva to Mexico services weekly.
The Fifth Freedom of the Air allows an airline to start a flight in its own country, land in a second country to drop off passengers and cargo, and then pick up new passengers and fly on to a third new country. This freedom is rarely granted.
Note that this is different than rights granted to airlines like Qantas on ultra long-haul routes. Under the Second Freedom of the Air, planes are allowed to land in countries that they are flying over for technical stops. Qantas’ Kangaroo Route, which flies between London and Sydney, currently stops in Dubai (soon to be Singapore) to refuel. Qantas is not allowed to pick up or drop off passengers at this stop under normal circumstances. Technical stops can include stops to refuel or stops due to emergencies.
Despite Switzerland’s approval, this UAE proposal isn’t in the clear. The route is still pending approval from Mexican authorities. Unlike conventional point-to-point routes, service under the 5th freedom needs approval from three governments before it can be implemented.
Emirates has been interested in Zurich-Mexico flights for about six months. They first requested permission from Swiss authorities for the route at the end of February. But why Switzerland, and why not just fly non-stop?
To the first question, Switzerland is often more likely to grant fifth freedom fights that other European countries. Though Emirates has expressed interest in flying the route through Berlin, doing so would require them to cut other German routes due to its bilateral agreement with Germany.
To the second question, Emirates doesn’t currently have an aircraft that would allow it to fly nonstop between Dubai and Mexico City. Due to the elevation of Mexico City airport, which is 7316 feet (2230 meters) above sea level, Emirates needs to wait until 2020 to fly the route directly, when it takes delivery of its first Boeing 777-X aircraft.
There are currently multiple flights between Zurich and Dubai. Most notably, Emirates operates two A380 flights on the route while Swiss uses an A330-300.
Featured Image by Alec Mollenhauer.