Speculation is growing that Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) will lease three B777-300ERs from Jet Airways. These aircraft will enable RBA to relaunch itself as a quality carrier linking Europe with Asia and Australasia.
According to reports in The Brunei Times, the SE Asian nation’s leading newspaper, government-owned RBA is expected to take over the B777s which Gulf Air has returned to India’s Jet Airways and which are now available for lease to other airlines.
Local reports indicate that RBA technical staff have already assessed the B777s in India. If the deal goes ahead, the carrier’s engineering staff are expected to undergo training with Boeing in Seattle before the B777s enter service sometime next year.
Currently RBA’s sole European destination is London Heathrow. Its other European destination, Frankfurt, was suspended in 2007. In Australasia, RBA serves Perth, Brisbane and Auckland. It is understood that RBA would like to revive services into Sydney (services were dropped last year) and also include Melbourne in its network.
RBA currently operates smaller two-class (business and economy) B767s out of Heathrow to Brunei with an en route stop in Dubai. From Brunei there are onward connections to Australasia and within the region. The vast majority of RBA passengers departing Europe or Australasia transit Brunei rather than make stopovers.
The carrier’s B767s are showing their age and are not fitted with the very latest products. By contrast, Jet’s three-class B777s are renowned for their state-of-the-art seating which includes suites in first and fully flat beds in business class.
It must also be noted that RBA is a “dry” carrier although passengers are permitted to bring their own drinks on board for personal consumption.
There are some potential clouds on the horizon if the deal goes ahead. For starters, RBA will need approval from the Australian authorities if it wishes to increase seat capacity and add additional destinations.
And secondly the carrier’s sales department will have to hone its marketing skills because it will have many more seats to fill. Each B777-300ER accommodates eight passengers in first, 30 in business and 274 in economy class. That compares to one of RBA’s B767s used on the London route which has 23 seats in business and 182 in economy class.
It is not easy to obtain concrete information about RBA’s future plans. In a statement issued to Business Traveller, an RBA spokesperson says “Our 2010 schedule paves the way to a gradual expansion plan as there are expectations and signs of economic recovery. The acquisition of new aircraft will depend on the expansion of RBA’s route network.”
For more information go to bruneiair.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter