INSIGHT

Which are the ‘Freedoms of the Air’ that Govern Commercial Air Transport?

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Air transportation is different to most other forms of commerce mainly because of its international components and also because of its governmental participation.

The industry is divided into scheduled air services and non-scheduled flights. For scheduled air services, the privilege of operating commercial services through or into a foreign country was, at the time of the 1944 Chicago conference split into five so-called freedoms of the air.

Charter flights fall mostly, but not invariably, into non-scheduled category. Under the Chicago Convention, contracting states agree to permit aircraft registered in the other contracting states and engaged in commercial non-scheduled flights to fly into their territory without prior diplomatic permission.

And so, for reasons variously good or bad, international air travel has long been subjected to all manner of complicated restrictions and bilateral treaties between nations.  One of the main treaties that sets out the fundamental building blocks of air transportation regulation – the ‘rules of the road’ – is the Chicago Convention of 1944.

These ‘building blocks’ are widely referred to as the “freedoms of the air”, and they are fundamental to the international route network we have today.

The first two are basic freedoms that are, more or less, recognized by all countries, the next three are at least widely understood, and accepted to varying degrees.  Then the last four become much less common – two are  less widely accepted, and the last two are hardly accepted at all.

Each is subject to specific conditions, such as establishing the frequency of flights, that are determined through bilateral agreements between any two of the countries that are parties to the Convention.

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 characterizes all “freedoms” beyond the Fifth as “so-called” because only the first five “freedoms” have been officially recognized 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 recognized 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”).

A perfect example of this freedom is the recently launched Air Senegal first flight to the United States connecting Dakar’s Blaise Diagne International Airport to BWI Airport via New York’s JFK Airport.

Air Senegal is tapping into its Eighth Freedom rights which allows the carrier the right to hop passengers between New York and Baltimore as long as the airline carries only travellers who either originate or are destined for Dakar. Passengers who want to fly domestically between the two cities will not be able to book a ticket on the carrier.

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 alone” cabotage).

 

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

 

By Victor Shalton Odhiambo

 

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