Hidden in yesterday’s announcement of new non-stop service between Los Angeles and Singapore was news that United Airlines would axe its final wide body Fifth Freedom route between Hong Kong and Singapore.
Oh, I think it makes sense to cut it. Just like it made sense to cut so many routes before it. Who need a Hong Kong to Singapore flight now when United will fly nonstop from two U.S. hubs?
But United’s Fifth Freedom routes tug at my nostalgia and I am sure I am not the only one.
I have flown Singapore to Hong Kong on UA before. I never bothered to write about it because the only thing unique about the flight was the poached egg breakfast:
That trip actually included two Fifth Freedom flights–I flew Tokyo to Hong Kong via Singapore all on United metal. I then caught my Qantas flight down to Sydney.
Looking back at historic route maps going back to 1986, we can see United’s strong intra-Asia presence inherited from Pan Am:
But United had widebody Fifth Freedom routes outside of Asia as well. Remember Buenos Aires to Montevideo? Or Kuwait City to Bahrain? Or London to Brussels?
I do. And yet in the world of 787s and alliance partnerships, the necessity of such routes continues to diminish.
United’s last two wide-body Fifth Freedom routes: Seoul to Tokyo and Singapore to Hong Kong will end this fall. If you want to experience SIN-HKG once more, the final flight will operate on 28 October 2017.
Remaining United Fifth Freedom Routes
United will maintain a few 737-operated Fifth Freedom routes. The island-hopper qualifies (service between Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia) and United also runs a thrice-weekly service from Manilla, Philippines to Koror, Palau.
But the days of taking a 747 or 777 from United’s (so-called) Tokyo Narita hub to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, or Taipei are long gone.