There’s a reason you don’t see American Airlines flying between Berlin and London, or British Air flights between Mexico City and Rio: Carriers are generally limited to flying between their home nation and their destination.
The rules — the “Freedoms of the Air” — governing these flights have evolved since they were first concretized in 1944. But the perhaps most interesting to curious travelers is the fifth of the nine freedoms: Basically, it allows carriers to make quick stops on long routes in countries that aren’t the carrier’s home country or its destination. For example, passengers traveling on Singapore Airlines between J.F.K. and Singapore make a quick stop in Frankfurt.
And adventurous travelers — who might prefer Singapore’s much-lauded service and style to, say, Delta’s definitely not much-lauded service on its normal route between J.F.K. and Frankfurt — can find some sweet opportunities if they know to look for them.
Travelers won’t often find savings: This tactic is different from hidden-city fares, which are officially against the rules but allow travelers without checked bags to hop off at an intermediate airport during a layover, sometimes at significant savings. (It’s worth noting that doing this can invalidate any other travel on a ticket, so this should never be done on the first leg of a round-trip. One-ways only!)
Fifth freedom flights instead might offer travelers a better experience on an airline they might not normally get to experience. LAX to Heathrow on Air New Zealand versus BA? Yes, please.
Finding these flights can be easy or hard, depending on the airline. But this terrific, comprehensive list is a great place to start.
Image: Masakatsu Ukon/Flickr Creative Commons