The distinctive yellow tail of Royal Brunei Airlines will be a familiar sight in Brisbane once again as the airline resumes scheduled Bandar Seri Begawan – Brisbane flights. Royal Brunei Airlines previously flew into Brisbane but ceased services in 2011.
The four times weekly service commenced last Thursday, 11 July 2019. The route will be serviced by an A320neo.
Details of the flights
The flights will depart Bandar Seri Begawan early evening every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, for a pre-dawn arrival in Brisbane the next day.
The A320neo will spend the day in Brisbane before heading back to Bandar Seri Begawan late afternoon every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, arriving later that evening.
The flights had been scheduled to commence on 10th June 2019 but were pushed back by a month for what Royal Brunei Airlines called “operational reasons”. Australian Aviation reports that engine maintenance issues with their 787s saw some 787 routes temporarily swapped out for A320neos, making the A320 aircraft unavailable for the initial Brisbane launch date.
The A320neo carries 150 passengers – 12 in business class and 128 in economy class. Young Travellers of Hong Kong did an informative review last year of an A320neo Royal Brunei flight between Hong Kong and Bander Seri Begawan.
The business class seats are recliners with a pitch of between 42-43 inches, a width between 21-23 inches and a 10-degree recline. In the economy cabin, the layout is 3-3. Seat pitch is between 32-32 inches, width is 17 inches and the recline is around five degrees.
The Brisbane flights will supplement Royal Brunei’s daily 787 Melbourne service.
But would you fly on Royal Brunei Airlines?
Royal Brunei Airlines has an interesting reputation.
Before Emirates became a global byword for glitzy premium cabins, Royal Brunei made a name for itself for its flashy premium cabin bathrooms and gold plated bathroom taps. It had a strong reputation as a premium quality airline.
Also, the airline has always offered very competitive fares across all its cabins. CAPA’s Brendon Scobie told Australian Aviation that the airline was offering Brisbane-London return fares later in 2019 for less than USD$800.00. He does not see how Royal Brunei can make money flying out of Brisbane with fares like that.
Further, the sale of alcohol is banned in Brunei and the government-owned national carrier is a dry airline. Alcohol is not served on board. That horrifies some passengers but other passengers quite like the idea of an alcohol-free flight. Non-Muslim passengers are allowed to bring and consume their own alcohol on board.
But most controversially and most influential is Brunei’s antediluvian legislative and social regime.
Most people are familiar with Brunei and its Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah. Brunei is a small but wealthy country, firmly under the Sultan’s thumb. Sharia law was adopted in 2014, and this year it was ramped up. Amongst other things, homosexuals could be whipped and/or stoned to death for having sex. Royal Brunei’s CEO Karam Chand tried to play down the legislation in Brisbane last week, helpfully noting nobody had actually been stoned since the legislation came to pass.
The Queensland Government and Brisbane Airport received considerable criticism earlier this year when they were courting Royal Brunei Airlines. The suggestion that monies were being paid to a government that stoned people to death was grossly offensive to many taxpayers. Both parties deny incentives were paid to Royal Brunei.
Will the lure of cheap airfares win out?
While many people will refuse to travel on airlines like Royal Brunei and Middle Eastern carriers that are backed by governments that persecute minority groups, the lure of cheap airfares will prove irresistible to others.
Royal Brunei is betting that travellers will use the Brisbane-Bander Seri Bengawan flights to connect through to London. Currently, the airline has less than 2% of the market on the kangaroo route, so there’s scope for expansion. But the kangaroo route is ruthlessly competitive.
While a portion of the travelling public will refuse point blank to patronise the airline, many others will automatically default to the best available airfare. Royal Brunei is betting there are more of the latter than the former.