Driving anywhere in the world will require you to follow common rules: traffic light, road signs, and speed limits. If we need to follow rules when we drive a car, what are the rules that pilot follow?
International flight is governed by ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organisation. ICAO are recognised by most countries with exception of Dominica and Liechtenstein. There are set of rules officially set by international treaty known as five freedoms of the air.
The first freedom is the right to fly above one’s territory without landing. For example, Qantas flight from Sydney to Singapore is flying over Indonesian territory. A sky over sovereign territory of one country is under their control. During the time over Indonesian territory, Qantas will need to make contact with Indonesian air traffic controller and also pay over flight fees to Indonesia. Over flight fees are charged when airline fly over one’s territory. The fees are different from country to country.
How about the international water? Surely no one own that, right? Yes, but for the flight US has the traffic control over it. Therefore, anyone fly over this oceanic region pays over flight fees to the US. So, in the flight between Australia and Japan – it will fly over the pacific ocean and the airline will pay over flight fees to the US even though they never be in the US territory.
The second freedom allows airline to make technical stops, such as refuelling but not embarking or disembarking passengers. It is not common nowadays to do only technical stops since plane can fly longer and faster than before. Back in the old days, airlines flying from North America commonly stop over Shannon airport in Ireland for refuelling before continue flying to their European destinations.
The third and fourth freedoms are kinda tied together. The third freedom allows airline to fly from its home country to foreign country. While, the fourth freedom allows airline to fly from foreign country to the home country. These freedoms basically are the basis of international flight between two countries and usually granted to airline at the same time.
The fifth freedom allows airline to stop in one’s territory for disembarking or embarking passengers. This is the freedom that airline commonly use these days on busy international route. Garuda Indonesia has service between Jakarta and London with stopover at Singapore. Emirates operate flight between Dubai to Christchurch, New Zealand via Sydney.
In a nutshell, five freedoms of the air are set of rights given to airline to ensure the smooth running of international flight.