Fifth freedom routes are flights that are operated by any airline from a particular country, between two other different countries. Singapore Airlines currently has a few fifth freedom routes to the United States, such as Hong Kong – San Francisco, Tokyo – Los Angeles, Manchester – Houston, and Frankfurt – New York JFK.
On 30 Dec 2019, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism granted Singapore Airlines the rights to operate non-stop flights between Tokyo and New York. With this approval, the airline could possibly operate a Singapore – Tokyo – New York JFK route in the future. For the Tokyo stop, whether Narita or Haneda is chosen really depends on the availability of slots for Singapore Airlines to operate this route, if it ever decides to exercise this right.
Singapore Airlines currently operates a daily one-stop flight between Singapore and New York JFK via Frankfurt using the A380-800, and a daily non-stop flight between Singapore and Newark using the A350-900ULR. Capacity wise, adding another flight between Singapore and New York JFK via Tokyo might necessitate changes to the aircraft used for the one-stop flight via Frankfurt, perhaps downgrading from the current A380-800 to a B777-300ER aircraft, in order to better match capacity to demand. Another possibility would be to replace the one-stop route via Frankfurt with the new route via Tokyo entirely, which as of now cannot be ruled out.
Even if the airline so chooses to exercise the right to operate this sector, it will be up against ANA, Japan Airlines and United Airlines who are already operating flights between Tokyo and New York. Herein lies another possibility of an enhanced codeshare agreement with these airlines as opposed to operating the actual route using SQ metal.
As of now, it is still too early to tell if Singapore Airlines will eventually operate the Tokyo – New York route, and we will just have to wait for further announcements from the airline on this development. For those intending to redeem your KrisFlyer miles for this sector if and when it happens, expect changes to the existing redemption chart to cater for this non-stop sector between Tokyo and New York.