Freedoms of the Air: the ICAO definitions

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One often hears about the 5th freedom when airlines are allowed to operate in countries other than their own. What does it really mean?

Here are the official definitions given by ICAO (Interrnational Civil Aviation Organization) a body of the United Nations:

First Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to fly across its territory without landing (also known as a First Freedom Right).

Second Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to land in its territory for non-traffic purposes (also known as a Second Freedom Right).

Third Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to put down, in the territory of the first State, traffic coming from the home State of the carrier (also known as a Third Freedom Right).

Fourth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to take on, in the territory of the first State, traffic destined for the home State of the carrier (also known as a Fourth Freedom Right).

Fifth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to put down and to take on, in the territory of the first State, traffic coming from or destined to a third State (also known as a Fifth Freedom Right).

ICAO characterises all “freedoms” beyond the Fifth as “so-called” because only the first five “freedoms” have been officially recognised as such by international treaty.

Sixth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, of transporting, via the home State of the carrier, traffic moving between two other States (also known as a Sixth Freedom Right). The so-called Sixth Freedom of the Air, unlike the first five freedoms, is not incorporated as such into any widely recognised air service agreements such as the “Five Freedoms Agreement”.

Seventh Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State, of transporting traffic between the territory of the granting State and any third State with no requirement to include on such operation any point in the territory of the recipient State, i.e the service need not connect to or be an extension of any service to/from the home State of the carrier.

Eighth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, of transporting cabotage traffic between two points in the territory of the granting State on a service which originates or terminates in the home country of the foreign carrier or (in connection with the so-called Seventh Freedom of the Air) outside the territory of the granting State (also known as a Eighth Freedom Right or “consecutive cabotage“).

Ninth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege of transporting cabotage traffic of the granting State on a service performed entirely within the territory of the granting State (also known as a Ninth Freedom Right or “stand alonecabotage).

Source: Manual on the Regulation of International Air Transport (Doc 9626, Part 4)

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