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Singapore Airlines secures fifth freedom rights on its Milan-Barcelona route

15 years after starting flights to Barcelona via Milan, Singapore Airlines has secured the rights to sell revenue and award tickets solely between the two European cities.

Singapore Airlines has been utilising its “fifth freedom” traffic rights quite extensively during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing the carrier to tap passenger and cargo demand in more liberalised parts of the world (as far as travel restrictions are concerned), including a new intra-Europe option between Rome and Copenhagen since July 2021.

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This month there’s a new string to the airline’s “fifth freedom” bow, with regular Milan – Barcelona flights that have operated since 2006 also joining the list, allowing SIA to sell tickets solely between the two cities in competition with European carriers easyJet and Vueling.

Route history

Singapore Airlines first started operating to Barcelona via Milan over 15 years ago in July 2006, three times weekly using Boeing 777-200ER aircraft (see the original press release here).

Crew of the inaugural Singapore – Milan – Barcelona flight in July 2006. (Photo: Milan Airports)

The route was quickly upgraded to the Boeing 777-300ER in December 2006, becoming only the third on the network to receive the then-new aircraft with its pioneering cabin products including the 2006 Business Class seat.

It was the first time the airline had operated to either city, even seeing daily service in the early 2010s, but since inception the carrier has not had “fifth freedom” traffic rights to carry passengers solely between Milan and Barcelona.

Only those heading to either city or from Singapore, or vice-versa, have been allowed to be on board for the short intra-Europe flight in either direction, with no option to buy a ticket just for the MXP-BCN or BCN-MXP sectors.

SIA’s 1 hour 40 minute hop between Milan and Barcelona is operated by three-class Airbus A350s. (Photo: Felix Kalin)

In May 2017 the route shifted to the airline’s three-class Airbus A350 Long Haul variant, but arguably the biggest change for the longstanding service is coming later this month.



 


 

“Fifth freedom” rights

From 17th January 2022, SIA has “fifth freedom” traffic rights in place and will start selling tickets on this city pair in isolation.

It’s not clear whether SIA has always had these traffic rights on the route, but chose not to use them for some reason, whether it applied more recently, or whether it has been trying for years and only just been granted the permission!

Singapore Airlines has been flying to Barcelona with passengers originating in Singapore for 16 years, but from mid-January 2022 it will also be able to fly passengers originating in Milan to the city. (Photo: Shutterstock)

All three weekly services in both directions are available, with one-way Economy Class fares starting at EUR 73, around 50% more than fares charged by low-cost incumbent Vueling on this route.

The schedule

Here’s how the flight schedule looks for these newly-approved “fifth freedom” flights, now able to accept intra-Europe passenger bookings from 17th January 2022.

Milan – Barcelona Schedule
(Northern winter timings)

  Days
M T W T F S S
SQ378
A350-900
MXP
07:15
BCN
08:50
SQ377 /
SQ379

A350-900
       
BCN
10:10
MXP
11:50
SIA’s latest “fifth freedom” route takes only around 1 hour 40 minutes

Tickets on this route have been loaded until the end of the northern winter season on 26th March 2022 for the time being, though we expect they will also be made available for the summer schedule through to late October 2022 in due course.

That should allow SIA to increase its fares during the peak European summer holiday season, especially when the main school holidays begin in July and August, and Economy fares can easily triple in this region.



 


 

Redemption rates and fares

These are the KrisFlyer miles saver redemption rates for flights between between Milan and Barcelona on these newly-approved “fifth freedom” flights.

KrisFlyer Redemption Rates
  MXP  ⇆  BCN
(each way)
Economy 10,000
+S$37
Premium Economy 17,000
+S$37
Business 30,500
+S$37

The airline has not loaded any award availability on the Milan – Barcelona – Milan “fifth freedom” flights yet, but we expect it will do so in due course (as it did with the Rome – Copenhagen – Rome flights shortly after they were confirmed).

In any event, with one-way fares as low as these on the intra-Europe services it almost certainly doesn’t make sense to redeem:

Cash Fares
  MXP → BCN
(one-way)
BCN → MXP
(one-way)
MXP  ⇆  BCN
(return)
Economy EUR 79
(S$121)
EUR 73
(S$112)
EUR 131
(S$201)
Premium Economy EUR 174
(S$267)
EUR 168
(S$258)
EUR 292
(S$449)
Business EUR 264
(S$406)
EUR 258
(S$396)
EUR 367
(S$564)
With fares like this, forget redemptions on this short route – stick to cash tickets and earn some miles instead!

Singapore Airlines is generally charging more than the low-cost carriers operating this route in Economy Class. It will be the only airline offering a Premium Economy and Business Class cabin between the two cities, until ITA starts flying on the route in April 2022 with a “Eurobusiness” type product.

That’s no patch on SIA’s long-haul 2013 Business Class seat of course, which is sure to be a popular option, for those who know it exists between these cities!

Lie-flat luxury for the 1.5 hour flight between Milan and Barcelona is now bookable without flying to or from Singapore. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

Vaccinated Travel Lane

Both Italy and Spain are on Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme, allowing quarantine-free entry to Singapore from both countries.

Unfortunately Italy recently put a ban on tourists entering from Singapore, or with a 10-day travel history including the country, until at least 31st January 2022. Those who can enter from the Lion City (e.g. Italian residents) are subject to 10-day quarantine.

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This does not affect the ability for passengers to fly from Singapore to Barcelona with a transit stop in Milan, but unfortunately there’s no opportunity to do a stopover in the Italian city for a few days before continuing on SIA to Spain, for the time being at least.

Note that new bookings on VTL flights to Singapore are only available from 21st January 2022 onwards.

Other SIA “fifth freedom” routes

Singapore Airlines is currently operating six “fifth freedom” routes on its global network, in addition to this new upcoming Milan – Barcelona link:

  • Copenhagen ⇆ Rome
  • Frankfurt ⇆ New York
  • Hong Kong ⇆ San Francisco (ends 29th January 2022)
  • Manchester ⇆ Houston
  • Tokyo ⇆ Los Angeles
  • Taipei ⇆ Los Angeles (ends 16th February 2022)
Singapore Airlines will operate its Airbus A380 on “fifth freedom” flights between Frankfurt and New York from late March 2022. (Photo: Mike Fuchslocher / Shutterstock)

Singapore Airlines does not have “fifth freedom” rights on its Johannesburg – Cape Town or Vancouver – Seattle routes.

The carrier is not planning to restart its other pre-pandemic “fifth-freedom” routes between Melbourne and Wellington or between Moscow and Stockholm.



 


 

Summary

We’re not sure whether Singapore Airlines simply never thought it was worth obtaining “fifth freedom” rights on its Milan – Barcelona route, and has only recently decided it is beneficial, or whether the it has basically been trying for 16 years and the approval has only just been granted!

Equally the airline might always have had the permission, but for whatever reason decided not to use it until now.

Whatever the case, from 17th January 2022 passengers will have another intra-Europe SIA option including the airline’s fantastic flat-bed Business Class products, a far cry from the alternatives typically offered by European carriers at ‘the pointy end’.

Intra-Europe redemption rates using KrisFlyer miles aren’t too attractive in this case, given the competitive low fares on offer, so you’re probably better off sticking with cash when redeeming.

(Cover Photo: Transport Pixels)

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7 comments

  1. How does it change the customs clearance for passengers from Singapore to Barcelona then? Do we need to clear customs in Italy and then proceed on with the next leg? Otherwise the passengers from Milan to Barcelona will need to clear Italy customs and Spain customs again?

    1. I suspect those flying SIN-BCN will complete immigration and customs in Milan, then re-board the flight under its intra-Schengen status for the MXP-BCN leg. That’s the process currently used on the SIN-CPH-FCO route.

      Both SIN-BCN and MXP-BCN travellers would then arrive in BCN as “EU domestic” passengers.

  2. Wait, is the HKG-SFO fifth freedom route closing for good? Or is this related to COVID policies for now? I didn’t see any other news about this, but perhaps I missed it.

    1. I believe this is related to the COVID policies. It was already downgraded 77W > 359 last month.

      Guess there just isn’t enough demand to justify this one for now, but it should be back eventually.

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