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Chongqing to Launch Its First Fifth Freedom Flight to Colombo and Male in June

By RAN ZHENG|Apr 20,2024

Chongqing - Chongqing Airlines recently announced a new international route from Chongqing to Colombo and Male starting June 24, marking its first use of the fifth freedom of the air.

The flight table of the Chongqing-Colombo-Male route. (Photo/Chongqing Airlines)

The fifth freedom of the air, also known as third-country transportation rights, allows an airline to transport paying passengers between foreign nations as part of flights originating from its own country. As established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), this right is among the most economically advantageous and strategically important of the Nine Freedoms of the Air.

Using the Chongqing-Colombo-Male route as an illustration, Chongqing Airlines has obtained the fifth freedom of the air. This enables it to stop in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, to pick up and drop off passengers and cargo on its way to Male, the capital of the Maldives, thereby enhancing its passenger and cargo services.

Yet establishing a fifth-freedom route is complex. It needs approval from at least three countries and potentially faces opposition from local airlines. These routes are part of more extended international services and typically do not operate as frequently as regional carriers.

Industry insiders believe that the new route from Chongqing to the Maldives and Sri Lanka will fill the existing void in direct flights, meeting the region's increasing travel needs. This connection is anticipated to boost tourism and economic and cultural interactions between these locations.

China possesses fifth freedom of air rights in 14 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and Haikou. During an official visit to China from April 14 to 16, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and China agreed on several collaborative deals, including expanding passenger and cargo air traffic rights between the two countries.

Additional fifth-freedom routes are available elsewhere in the world. For instance, Taipei, Taiwan, offers flights to Japan on Indonesia's Batik Air, serving destinations like Osaka and Nagoya. Meanwhile, from Auckland, New Zealand, travelers can fly to Brisbane on China Airlines and Sydney on LATAM, according to Forbes Advisor.

The Colombo Lotus Tower is a symbolic landmark of Sri Lanka. (Photo/Sri Lanka Travel Pages)

Chongqing Airlines will utilize the Airbus A320neo for this route, operating flights three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The flight schedule includes flight CZ553, which departs Chongqing at 12:10 local time on Mondays and Fridays, arriving in Colombo at 15:30 before continuing to Male, where it arrives at 17:10. The Wednesday schedule sees a departure from Chongqing at 15:45, arriving in Male at 20:55 after a stopover in Colombo.

The return journey on flight CZ554 departs Male at 18:20 on Mondays and Fridays, reaching Chongqing the following day at 5:55, after a stop in Colombo. On Wednesdays, the flight departs Male at 22:25, arriving in Chongqing at 10:30 the following day.

Chongqing is underway to transform into a major aviation hub by expanding Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport, increasing intercontinental routes, and implementing the fifth air traffic right. By 2035, the city plans to offer direct flights to over 100 international cities and ensure more than 80% of domestic cities are also directly accessible.


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