Discovering Orlando’s Only Fifth Freedom Flight

by joeheg

Orlando International Airport (MCO) is our primary airport, and despite its flaws, we appreciate having access to a major airport close to home. Given Orlando’s popularity as a travel destination, it’s convenient to find flights to anywhere in the world. Additionally, we have multiple airlines to choose from, often with several carriers flying to the same destination.

Orlando Airport serves a wide range of airlines and offers flights to various international destinations, including The Caribbean, Europe, and Central and South America. It’s always interesting to see unusual airline combinations, like Icelandair and Avelo planes, parked together at the airport.

a group of airplanes parked on a runwayI keep track of the airlines that fly to Orlando and the different places they come from. On our way to Vietnam, we considered taking the Emirates flight to Dubai but eventually chose to fly through Singapore and cross the Pacific Ocean instead. We also once took the Orlando-Honolulu flight on Hawaiian Airlines before they discontinued the route.

However, I recently discovered a unique flight to MCO that I wasn’t aware of. What’s more, it’s the airport’s only fifth freedom route. (update – I’ve been told this is not a fifth-freedom, but a seventh-freedom route because the flight operates between two cities. It’s also not an issue because the UK subsidiary of Aer Lingus operates the flight)

Manchester – Orlando on Aer Lingus

I know that Aer Lingus flies to Orlando. In fact, we flew business class with them from Orlando to Dublin in 2016.

a woman sitting in an airplane

I didn’t know that the airline has flown from Orlando to Manchester (UK) since 2022. Aer Lingus is the flag carrier of Ireland and operates most of its flights from Dublin and Shannon. But they also fly a handful of transatlantic flights from Manchester, which seems to be a strange expansion.

Why Manchester (UK)?

The number one US destination from Manchester is Orlando, FL. Before the pandemic, Virgin Atlantic, Thomas Cook and TUI flew the route. Thomas Cook went bankrupt, and TUI moved its flight to Melbourne, leaving Virgin Atlantic as the only airline serving the city pair.

Aer Lingus saw an opportunity and announced four international routes from Manchester, including Orlando, New York (JFK), Boston and Barbados. The Boston route never happened, but the other three cities are still served non-stop from Manchester, with Barbados dropping to seasonal flights.

Increased Capacity For The Holidays

Aer Lingus typically offers three weekly flights between Orlando and Manchester, but during the winter holiday season (December 18, 2024 to January 5, 2025), the service will increase to four times per week.

Final Thought

Until I learned about this Aer Lingus flight to Manchester (UK), I didn’t think there were any fifth freedom routes to Orlando. Once two of the three airlines flying the route were gone, someone had to fill the void in capacity. With no US or UK airlines willing to jump in, it left an opportunity for the Irish carrier to add direct service to US cities they already served from their Dublin hub.

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michael April 15, 2024 - 6:23 pm

It’s not a “Fifth Freedom” route, it is operated by “Aer Lingus UK” with UK registered aircraft and the UK company is a stand alone operation

Matthew April 15, 2024 - 6:32 pm

This is not a 5th freedom flight. It’s operated by Aer Lingus UK (EUK/“Green Flight”) and not by Aer Lingus (EIN/“Shamrock”). Aer Lingus UK is a wholly owned subsidiary of Aer Lingus but they are two separate carriers, and because Aer Lingus UK is a UK flagged airline this is not a 5th freedom flight

derek April 15, 2024 - 7:43 pm

I believe the Aer Lingus flight is not a 5th freedom flight. I believe it’s a 7th freedom flight.

5th freedoms are rights to fly between two countries while part of a flight originating or arriving at one’s home country. A 5th freedom flight could be MCO-MAN-DUB but I do not think it is such a flight.

7th freedom is the right to fly between two countries where the flight does not involve one’s home country. A MCO-MAN flight would be such a flight.

Lars April 17, 2024 - 9:21 am

Not a “7th freedom” flight, either. As pointed out above, the flight is operated by the separate, UK-incorporated legal business entity of Aer Lingus. So it’s a UK airline flying to the US. It’s a “third freedom” flight, which is nothing more than a regular ol’ international flight between the country where an airline is based, and another country.

That said, seeing the Aer Lingus brand and livery flying direct between the UK and US without touching Ireland is certainly an interesting thing to see on its face.


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