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Royal Brunei Airlines

Royal Brunei Airlines Sdn Bhd (Malay: Penerbangan DiRaja Brunei, Jawi: ﻓﻧﺭﺑﺎڠن ﺩﻴﺮﺍﺝ ﺑﺮﻮﻧﻲ), or RBA, is the flag carrier airline of the Sultanate of Brunei. It is wholly owned by the Government of Brunei. Its home base is the Brunei International Airport in Berakas, just to the north of the capital city of Brunei, Bandar Seri Begawan.

History

Pre-Independence

Royal Brunei Airlines was established on 18 November 1974 with two Boeing 737s.The airline's first flight was on 14 April 1975 from the new Brunei International Airport to Singapore. Flights to the then British colony of Hong Kong and the city of Kota Kinabalu and Kuching in East Malaysia/Malaysian Borneo started the same day. Early route expansion included services to Manila, Philippines in 1976, and Bangkok, Thailand in 1977.

Royal Brunei acquired a third Boeing 737 in 1980, allowing the airline to reach Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1981 and Darwin, Australia, in 1983.

From National Independence

After the independence of Brunei from the United Kingdom on 1 January 1984, services commenced to Jakarta, Indonesia, on the 3rd of January, thus linking all the other five capital cities of ASEAN to Brunei.

Three Boeing 757 aircraft were purchased in the mid 1980s to enable the airline to expand to Taipei in 1986, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 1988. In 1990, Royal Brunei began their first flight to Europe when they started services to Frankfurt, Germany, via Bangkok and Dubai. Services to London Gatwick Airport commenced in 1990 via Singapore and Dubai, and changed to London Heathrow Airport in 1991. Also in 1991 routes opened to Perth, Western Australia, and to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, via Dubai.

Rapid Expansion

With the airline's rapid expansion the 737s were sold and Boeing 767 aircraft bought. The delivery of the first Boeing 767 broke a world record when it flew 17 hours and 54 minutes non stop from the Boeing company in Seattle to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya, on its way to Brunei. Seven more 767s were delivered, taking the fleet to eight 767s and two Boeing 757s (One of the 757s were sold off to fund the purchase of the new 767s).

In March 1993, Abu Dhabi was added to the route network and flights to Frankfurt and Jeddah were routed through Abu Dhabi instead of Dubai. Bali was the second Indonesian city to be added to the network in May of the same year. Flights to the third destination in Europe, Zürich, commenced in August 1993 via Kuala Lumpur and another new destination Bahrain. Before the end of the year, services to Beijing, China (October), and Cairo, Egypt (November), via Kuala Lumpur and Bahrain, were inaugurated. Royal Brunei sold its last Boeing 737-200s to Aloha Airlines of Hawaii in 1993.

The growth of the network continued in 1994. The delivery of two Fokker 50 aircraft were used to start services to Miri and Labuan in East Malaysia of the same year. Flights to Brisbane, Australia, and Osaka, Japan, commenced the same year in June and December respectively (the Brisbane service was initially routed via Darwin but later upgraded to a nonstop flight). The desire to link all the major Oil and Gas cities on Borneo saw the addition of Balikpapan to the route network in December.

In 1995, services began to Kolkata (Calcutta), India, via Singapore and then on towards Dubai. Two Dornier 228s were purchased in the same year and leased to the Malaysian regional carrier, Hornbill Airways, to connect Brunei by air to Mulu. The service to Cairo was suspended in the middle 1995 due to low passenger numbers.

The F-50s were replaced by the larger and more comfortable F-100 jets in 1996 which fueled expansion to Bintulu. The route to Zürich was suspended in September 1996 to enable Royal Brunei to commence daily services to London Heathrow. Some of the flights to London were routed through Yangon, Burma, and Abu Dhabi, instead of via Singapore and Dubai. Yangon proved uneconomic and was dropped from the route the following year.

Consolidation

In August 1997, a Dornier 228 owned by Royal Brunei Airlines but operated and maintained by Malaysian regional carrier Hornbill Airways, carrying 19 passengers to Miri, crashed into high ground near Miri airport. All 19 passengers and two crew died. The Dornier 228s were sold in 1997 and short haul services connecting Brunei to Miri, Labuan, Mulu and Bintulu were terminated. Surabaya was the fourth Indonesian destination to be added to the network later that year.

Unprofitable routes to Beijing and Osaka were suspended in 1998 and the F-100s were also sold off to Alpi Eagles Airlines in 1998.

Kuwait was added to the network in 2000 and was served via Singapore, Kolkata and Dubai. It was suspended a year later. Services also began to Shanghai Pudong International Airport in 2001. Royal Brunei started online booking facilities the same year.

Restructuring

After years of unprofitable operation, Royal Brunei began major restructuring in year 2003. The plan was for Royal Brunei’s fleet to grow from 9 aircraft in 2003 to 24 aircraft by the year 2013. The fleet of 6 Boeing 767 will be changed to 15 new narrow-bodied aircraft and 8 wide-bodied aircraft. The plan calls for half of the new aircraft to be leased and the others to be purchased. The plan also included new services to Auckland, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City, Sydney and Seoul and to increase its frequencies on other flights.

For 2004 to 2010, Royal Brunei will invest US$400 million to buy wide-bodied aircraft. For the year 2008 to 2013, Royal Brunei will invest US$200 million to buy narrow-bodied aircraft to replace the current fleet of B767-300 aircraft and also further increase the number of narrow-bodied aircraft.

In 2003, the deliveries of the new Airbus A319 and A320 marked the start of the re-equipping exercise. Two A319s were delivered on August 28 and September 3. A320s were added December 9 and January 3, 2005. All of the Airbus were leased from CIT Aerospace of USA in a seven year contract. The Airbuses fly mainly on regional routes. With the introduction of new aircraft, the Boeing 757 has been phased out and sold to other parties.

In May 2003, Royal Skies, the airlines’ frequent flyer programme, was launched.

On 31st Oct 2003, a Royal Brunei jet touched down at Auckland International Airport making it the first destination in New Zealand and the first new destination added to the network as part of the restructuring exercise.

By end of the year 2003, Royal Brunei entered a controversial agreement with Royal Tongan Airlines of Tonga. Under the agreement, Royal Tongan Airlines was to wet-lease one of the two remaining B757s of Royal Brunei. In return, Royal Brunei was given the opportunities to open its market to the US. The deal did not happen because Royal Tongan Airlines went into bankruptcy with huge debt in mid 2004, after less than 6 months of operation. As Royal Tongan Airlines was unable to pay the fees, the B757 was repossessed and stored in Auckland International Airport.

In January 2004, the airline launched Blue Sky Fares, a low cost Internet booking facility, offering cheaper economy class fares to selected destinations, to compete with low cost carriers in the region, such as AirAsia.

Starting in March 2004, four of Royal Brunei’s Boeing 767 aircraft were modified by the introduction of SkyDreamer seats in Business Class to replace the old First Class and Business Class Skyluxe seats. Business Class was renamed as Sky Executive Class and in Economy class each seat was installed with an 8.4 inch TV. Sky Executive Class was subsequently renamed Business Class following poor response from the public.

The unprofitable Taipei route was suspended in late 2004. Kuching and Kolkata were dropped on 31 Oct 2004 due to the rising oil prices, but at the same time, Sydney was added to the route network. Commencing 17th December, flights to Jeddah were routed through Sharjah instead of Abu Dhabi .

The last B757 was retired from the Royal Brunei fleet in early 2005.

2006 and Beyond

Royal Brunei added Ho Chi Minh City to its network list in May 2006, flying there 3 times every week. In July 2007, RBA appointed a new CEO, Ray Sayer. He had previous airline experience at British Airways and Gulf Air.

In early September 2007, RBA temporarily suspended flights to Frankfurt as part of its restructuring exercise. Kuching was reintroduced to the network on the 1st of December 2007, after a break of 3 years.

Royal Brunei Airlines suspended services to Darwin on 26th January 2008, after serving the route for 24 years. Sharjah was also dropped from the network early 2008 when Jeddah flights were routed directly to and from Bandar Seri Begawan. However, Shanghai was "suspended" in April 2008, and Sydney and Bali were dropped from the summer schedule of 2008.

Royal Brunei Airlines was to acquire Boeing 777 extended range aircraft on lease. The first of four Boeing 777-200s for Royal Brunei rolled out from the paintshop in late April 2007, however the lease deal fell through. The B777 aircraft were to be used on the long-haul routes to Europe and Australia to vastly improve RBA's capabilities by offering a higher passenger and cargo load capacity.

On 2nd June 2008, Royal Brunei Airlines increased services to Auckland from Bandar Seri Begawan by offering a new direct service three times a week. This direct service is in addition to increase in frequency of the existing route via Brisbane from three to four times a week.

Destinations

Royal Brunei has started services to three of the five destinations (Auckland, Sydney and Ho Chi Minh City) stated in the 2003 restructuring plan. Services to Tokyo and Seoul mentioned in the restructuring plan have yet to commence. Sydney was added to the network in 2004, but will be "suspended" (at the same time as Bali) in 2008.

Code Share Flights

The airlines has a code share agreement with Malaysia Airlines (Kuala Lumpur - Brunei), BMI (London to 6 British cities), Dragonair (Hong Kong - Brunei), Philippine Airlines (Manila - Brunei), and Thai (Bangkok - Brunei). Royal Brunei operates on all these routes with the exception of the domestic British flights which are operated by BMI. Some of the codeshare flights to destinations in Malaysia are also operated by Malaysia Airlines in addition to services operated by Royal Brunei.

Royal Brunei Airlines — codeshare agreements & interline partnerships
Airlines Destinations Operator
BMI Belfast, Edinburgh, Teeside, London, Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester bmi
Dragonair Hong Kong Royal Brunei Airlines
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur Royal Brunei and Malaysia Airlines
Philippine Airlines Manila Royal Brunei Airlines
Thai Bangkok Royal Brunei Airlines

New UK-Brunei air services agreement

Brunei Darussalam and the United Kingdom enhanced their air transport cooperation by agreeing to allow more air services between the countries on November 23, 2007. The agreement comes into action with immediate effect. The agreement offers new opportunities for both countries to foster cooperation in air transport bringing valuable inbound tourism industry and commerce between the two countries. The United Kingdom is considered an important gateway for European tourists coming to Brunei. Royal Brunei Airlines operates daily flights between Brunei and London via Dubai. According to Brunei Tourism, the latest tourism figures of holiday visitor arrivals from January to August 2007 recorded 3,459 European visitors in total. From now on, Royal Brunei Airlines could mount daily services on routes between Bandar Seri Begawan and London without any restrictions on aircraft type and seat capacity with the end of the previous arrangement. RBA could also enjoy the privilege to launch up to four services per week on routes to Manchester if decided at a later date.

Fleet

The Royal Brunei Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft (at May 2007) :

Quantity Type Registrations/Configuration
2 Airbus A319-132 (V8-RBP,V8-RBR) (8J/114Y)
2 Airbus A320-232 (V8-RBS,V8-RBT) (12J/132Y)
1 Boeing 757-2M6 (4K-AZ43) (24J/150Y) Leased to Azerbaijan Airlines
4 Boeing 767-33AER (V8-RBF,V8-RBG,V8-RBH,V8-RBJ) (23J/182Y) SkyDreamer & SkyShow (AVOD)
1 Boeing 767-33AER (V8-RBL) (23J/182Y) 'Gold Service' Business & SkyShow (Mainscreen)
1 Boeing 767-33AER (V8-RBK) (18J/231Y) 'Gold Service' Business & SkyShow (Mainscreen)
0 (4 on order) Boeing 787-8M6 To be leased from LCAL Leasing Co.

When the four brand-new Boeing 787-8 aircraft are delivered in 2009, Royal Brunei will begin looking into beginning new long-haul, non-stop services to Europe.

Royal Skies

Royal Skies is the frequent flyer programme of Royal Brunei Airlines. It was launched in May 2003. Members will earn actual miles on every eligible Royal Brunei Airlines’ flight or by utilising the products and/or services of Royal Skies Partners.

Membership is divided into three tiers:

  1. Blue (Base membership)
  2. Silver (Silver membership - Elite)
  3. Gold (Gold membership - Elite)

Royal Skies membership does not expire as long as there is at least one activity recorded in the member’s account within a period of three years.

The Blue card does not carry any expiry date, however, Silver and Gold cards will have an expiry date that shows the end of the benefits period. Silver and Gold members must re-qualify for the Elite tier to continue receiving Elite Status benefits. With the expiration of Elite status benefits, the member will use their Blue card to start earning tier-qualifying miles again. However, the total miles that the member has accumulated so far will not expire.

Miles accrued by Royal Skies members can be redeemed for free flights or seat upgrades. A free upgrade award starts from 5,000 Royal Skies miles, while redemption for a free flight starts from 15,000 miles.

Bluesky Fares

Bluesky Fares is the name given to the low-cost fares available only through online purchase at the Royal Brunei Airlines website. It was launched in January 2004, in response to competition from low-cost carriers such as AirAsia. The fares are also listed on the website and are updated at periodic intervals. There are other terms and conditions for travelling with tickets purchased with Bluesky fares such as no miles accrual for Royal Skies.

Sky Lounge

SkyLounge is Royal Brunei Airlines' lounge at the Brunei International Airport. It was opened in January 2004 and occupies the entire mezzanine floor at the departure hall (airside) of the airport. The lounge which has a seating capacity of approximately 120, with massage chairs, workstations with personal computers and free Internet access and wireless connections for personal laptops. Other facilities include shower rooms and a prayer room with ablution areas for Muslim passengers. The lounge is exclusively reserved for Royal Brunei’s first and business class passengers, and Royal Skies Gold and Silver members. The lounge may also be used by Baiduri Bank American Express Gold Card holders, and other qualifing members of other airlines with an agreement with Royal Brunei Airlines to use the lounge such as Singapore Airlines .

Inflight service and awards

As the sale of alcohol is forbidden in Brunei, Royal Brunei does not serve alcohol on board its flights. Passengers are permitted to take along their own. All meals served are halal. All Royal Brunei flights are non-smoking flights.

Extended Range Boeing 767

Royal Brunei Airlines removed the older generation of First, Business and Economy Class seats and replaced them with a more spacious 2-class layout on the extended range Boeing 767 in March 2004. Every seat on the refurbished Boeing 767 features a 10.5" (Business Class) or 8.5" (Economy Class) personal television screen which is linked to the state-of-the-art audio/video on-demand entertainment system, dubbed as 'SkyShow' by the airline..

Business Class The Business Class seats on the refurbished extended range Boeing 767s are equipped with SkyDreamer seats. These seats extend to 75 inches when fully reclined. The podded seat also feature and a personal pull-up screen provide extra privacy, and has an in-seat power connector and a 10.4 inch personal TV..

Economy Class Economy Class in the retrofitted B767 aircraft offer seats with a 32-inch pitch, adjustable footrests and "winglet" headrests for improved neck comfort. Each seat also has a 8.4 inch personal TV which provides on-going entertainment including audio and video on-demand choices.

Sky Show

Sky Show is Royal Brunei Airlines inflight entertainment system based on the Thales Group i-4000 series. These are offered through the 10.4-inch personnal TV on the Sky Dreamer seats in the Business class on B767s and 8.4-inch personal televisions in Economy class on selected B767s. It offers an extensive choice of audio and video programs and features 17 videos on demand selections, five broadcast video channels, 10 games, more than 60 audio-on-demand and 12 channels of continuous audio entertainment in a variety of languages.

Royal Brunei Airlines was 'Runner Up' to Hawaiian Airlines for 'Best Entertainment for the Main Screen' category as determined by an international media panel, sponsored by the World Airline Entertainment Association (VVAEA), that evaluated in-flight audio, video, magazine and interactive media from leading passenger airlines worldwide. RBA was nominated in the following three categories: Best In-Flight Audio Entertainment, Best Entertainment for the Main Screen and Best Overall In-Flight Entertainment (Small Fleet, 24 or fewer aircraft).

Muhibah Magazine

The in-flight magazine of Royal Brunei Airlines, titled Muhibah, is published six times a year.. It is issued free of charge to all passengers on Royal Brunei flights and can also be subscribed. The magazine was first published in 1981 by Abas Williams Associates (Abas Williams Associates is now Syabas Publishers). The magazine was voted First Runner Up in the 2002 Avion Awards and has recently undergone cosmetic changes to include new a new typeface throughout.

Subsidiaries

Royal Brunei subsidiaries are companies that are involved in the non-core businesses supporting its aviation business activities such as Royal Brunei Catering, which operates the flight kitchen at Brunei International Airport and Royal Brunei Engineering which provides maintenance and overhall of aircraft.

References

External links

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