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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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)
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
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:
|MXP → BCN
|BCN → MXP
|MXP ⇆ BCN
|Premium Economy||EUR 174
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!
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.
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 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.
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 carrier 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)