I wonder if there's pairs of cities in some countries where there's a feasible flights between them with international connection? Has to be at least comparable in price and convenience with domestic connections.

Example of this scenario: There's no direct flights between ROV and UFA, but both airports have flights to IST. Theoretically you could fly from Rostov-on-Don to Ufa with Turkish Airlines with Istanbul connection. In practice you won't, because you will be connecting in Moscow. But I wonder if there are places in the world when people fly to their own country by passing through another one.

So I'm looking for a non-trivial traffic/offerings for such travel between two cities, not just a theoretical possibility. It should probably show up on skyscanner (or similar) and be competitive there.

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    France's overseas departments provide all sorts of interesting cases here. – Zach Lipton Mar 16 '18 at 9:01
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    @fkraiem I would classify intra-Schengen flights as international. WRT flying through IST, there's no point in doing that. I'll update my question. – alamar Mar 16 '18 at 9:59
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    There are a fair few that pop up on my travel options when wanting to fly from Scotland to England. Edinburgh to London is a very easy direct flight, but sometimes it is better via France or Ireland, or even the Netherlands – Rory Alsop Mar 16 '18 at 12:35
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    I think one case where this happens sometimes is during Chinese New Year in China, when everybody goes home to their family, and all domestic modes of transportation, including trains and airplanes, are super-full, and some people end up finding it easier to transit through a foreign country (if they have the passport and visa necessary to do so). – user102008 Mar 16 '18 at 15:38
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    FWIW: Before the Schengen era, there were quite a few so called 'corridor trains' in Europe allowing passengers to travel between two points in country A through country B without being subject to customs and immigration control of country B. Crooked borders and rail lines laid long before current borders were drawn made such arrangements necessary. Currently there are still a few applications of this concept, e.g. train passengers transiting through Lithuania between Kaliningrad and 'main' Russia are subject to a simplified visa regime and don't need a regular Schengen visa. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Mar 17 '18 at 0:30

What you're talking about is "modified sixth freedom rights", which are a form of cabotage:

Cabotage is the transport of goods or passengers between two places in the same country by a transport operator from another country. ... In aviation, it is the right to operate within the domestic borders of another country. Most countries do not permit aviation cabotage, and there are strict sanctions against it, for reasons of economic protectionism, national security, or public safety. ...

The "modified sixth freedom" refers to the right to carry passengers between two points in country A through a hub in country B; for instance, a Boston-Toronto-Seattle itinerary. Such services are currently considered to constitute cabotage and are not permitted.

Since most countries prohibit cabotage, this probably means that such itineraries would not be openly advertised or bookable as a single ticket. For example, in 2002 Asiana was fined for offering flights from Guam & Saipan to the continental US via Seoul. In other words, such itineraries would be less likely to "show up on Skyscanner or similar"; you'd have to explicitly construct a nested itinerary (one round-trip ticket from A to C and a separate ticket from C to B), with all the hassle and risk such itineraries entail.

The main exception to all of this is the EU, where all member states have granted cabotage rights to all others. Most EU member states have well-developed domestic air networks (not to mention rail networks), so I suspect that traveling from (say) Marseille to Bordeaux via Frankfurt would not be cost-competitive with a flight purely within a country. But you never know; if such an itinerary exists, that'd be where I'd look for it.

EDIT: As correctly pointed out in the comments, cabotage laws don't prevent a carrier flagged in Country A to offer an itinerary connecting two cities in Country A via a city in Country B; they merely prevent carriers flagged in Country B from doing so. However, it has also been pointed out in the comments that such itineraries would involve a higher degree of hassle regarding immigration, which would reduce the incentive of a carrier to offer such itineraries. Also, given the hub-and-spoke model that most airlines employ, it would be a rare case in which this was the only option; and if other itineraries existed within Country A, I suspect they would be cheaper.

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    Cabotage might stop, say, AA offering YYZ-BOS-YVR, but it wouldn't stop AC doing it – Berwyn Mar 16 '18 at 12:40
  • @Berwyn That having been said, Air Canada doesn't offer any such flights. It can't guarantee that all passengers would be admissible to the US (the US doesn't offer simple transit clearance for even Canadians; you're either in or you're out). And you could fly that route connecting in YWG, YXE, YQR, YEG, YYC or YLW, not to mention non-stop, so there's no utility in connecting via a US airport. – Jim MacKenzie Mar 16 '18 at 13:20
  • @JimMacKenzie Surely the same would apply to internal flights via another country anywhere in the world? No airline could guarantee that all their passengers are allowed without a visa through another country. – Berwyn Mar 16 '18 at 13:29
  • @Berwyn Yet another reason why you don't run into those flights much, but I was just making the point that you'd need unusual circumstances to even want to fly that way. There is zero reason why any Air Canada passenger would want to connect between Canadian cities via Boston, New York, Chicago or anywhere else, just because there are so many other indirect ways through Canada if needed. – Jim MacKenzie Mar 16 '18 at 14:42
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    @Berwyn Most countries (other than US notably) offer airside transit where you don't need to be admissible in country to be able to change flights. So in hypothetical ROV-IST-UFA flight you'll never have to enter Turkey. – alamar Mar 16 '18 at 15:57

The triangle inequality means that flying A-C-B is always further than A-B; and minimum connection times will also cause problems. So it depends on how you weigh up the merits of ticket price, time required, and convenience (ease of transit airport etc.). For example, I can find prices for flying from Bristol to Edinburgh which are cheaper via Dublin than going direct: but it would inflate a flight time of around an hour to closer to 4, and risks mis-connection.

Supposing there is no direct domestic flight A-B, then an A-C-B via C in a third country will still struggle to compete with all the indirect flights A-D-B where D is in the same country as A and B. The scenarios I can imagine it working out are:

  • Due to a quirk of geography, A and B are much closer to C than any domestic D; hence flights would be quicker (and possibly cheaper, but fare doesn't necessarily correlate with distance)
  • Domestic flights A-D-B are only available on an expensive legacy carrier, whereas a low cost operator (or rival legacy feeding their hub) operating out of C prices much more aggressively to win traffic
  • There are no domestic routings between A and B, nor sensible alternative public transport options

This last I can give an example of, but clearly without access to O&D flow data it can only be hypothetical rather than confirmed as something that people genuinely do. KLM has an extensive network from its hub at Amsterdam to the UK regions, offering links between cities that cannot be flown between domestically. For instance, Glasgow to Norwich can be flown this summer via Amsterdam for less than £150 return and journey times under 3h30 each way. By contrast, an off peak train journey is £138 (although I can see combinations of advance fares that save around £10, and many people have railcards), and takes at best 6h43 each way, requiring four different trains.

Finally, by way of personal anecdote I have actually flown domestically via an international connection. That was London to Bristol via Amsterdam, but for a special flight rather than for any price/time advantage. I took a train to London from Bristol to position for the flights and that was both faster and cheaper, despite booking into a first class carriage!

  • This happens all the time with trans-Canadian flights, say YVR-YYZ. The Great Circle route crosses into the US due to the definition of the border as a constant latitude. Also flights like BOS-SEA cut right across Southern Ontario. Another scenario is flights between countries and their outlying territories (metropolitan France to Guiana, Continental US to Guam) – user71659 May 5 '18 at 18:54

Just wanted to update that a colleague was able to observe LED - IST - KUF flight advertised by Turkish Airlines on some ticket search service. So it is in fact offered. Was it worth it price-wise? Guess not.

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