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A Promise Kept (Part 1): RBA Carry You Home  
User currently onlinedirktraveller From Singapore, joined Jan 2011, 587 posts, RR: 2
Posted (1 year 11 months 4 weeks ago) and read 6961 times:

http://i1113.photobucket.com/albums/k502/dirktraveller/Spring%20trip%202012/IMG_8960.jpg

Welcome to my 7th Trip Report!

Shortly after I have returned from CGK in June, I realized that I have some events that I need to attend in Jakarta and Surabaya in September. As I have some spare time in September, I started to plan out my itinerary to CGK. While direct routing from MEL to CGK on GA would be much more efficient, I finalised the trip with a more 'complicated' itinerary.

While I was planning my itinerary, a colleague of mine has been asking me to fly with her to her hometown in Surabaya (SUB) for a long time, since the day both of us was transferred to MEL from our previous post in SIN.

As most of my previous trips was to CGK and SIN, I have no opportunity to get on a flight to SUB with her. Therefore, this time I will have the opportunity to get into SUB, it was time for me to fulfill a promise kept .

[Background

Some of you may think that I came up with the idea to fly on Royal Brunei Airlines (BI), but actually it was my colleague who came up with the proposal to fly BI. While actually I had flown on the airline before, but looking at the deal BI offered for the route, it was clear that we will fly with BI this time round. Furthermore, it would give me an opportunity to report my BI experience on the forum this time round.

Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA/BI) is the flag carrier of the Sultanate of Brunei, the country located north of the island of Borneo. It was found in 1974 and has since expanded to serve some cities in Asia, Australia, Middle east, and LHR in Europe. Currently BI operated a fleet of 9 aircraft, serving 14 destinations. With their size, it is obvious that this airline is 'hidden' under the shadows of the big boys in the region, such as SQ, MH, or TG. Melbourne was one of the latest addition into their network, which was served by a daily 772 flight from its main base, BWN.

As my colleague and I had common spare time during that period, we agreed to fly to SUB on September 21st.

Check-in

The day started early for me on that Friday, as I had to wake up early on 7.00 am and get my bags into the tram bound for my colleague's place, where we had booked the Starbus, an airport shuttle that would conveniently link your address to the airport at a cost of AUD 17. The Starbus van arrived slightly later than the booking time but it did not put our schedule at risk, as we are still ahead of time.


Old-style FIDS at T2 Melbourne Airport

After the 20 minutes ride in the freeway, we reached Terminal 2 of Tullamarine Airport. We arrived early as planned and the check-in desks was only open after we waited there for around 20 minutes. Despite using eight check-in desk, large queues of passengers were formed for BI check-in. The man who was in-charge of my check-in desk was very thorough and prolonged the check-in process, which eventually I could proceed without any trouble.


Long queue at BI Check-in desks


The International Departure area, only passengers allowed to enter from this point onwards


View of UA B744


Breakfast with the view of UA 744 out of the window


Boarding pass printed for both BI 54 and BI 795 sector

After check-in, we proceed to the security check area and immigration. The immigration queues were extremely long in MEL, filled by passengers bound for UA, JQ, QF, NZ, and BI flights. They urgently need to improve on this area. Following the long and tiring immigration queues, we proceed to a coffee shop which provides a good view of parking stand D4, which a UA 744 was parking on the stand that time.

Boarding

FLIGHT DETAILS

Flight Number: BI 54
Type of Aircraft: B777-212ER
Registration: V8-BLA (L/n 378, Leased from SQ since 01.06.2010)
Seat: 33J
ETD: 12.25
ETA: 17.25

JQ A332 ready for departure to SIN


Our aircraft today, V8-BLA

We proceed to the assigned gate 8 after enjoying our hot beverages. There were still some time before boarding call was made, and hence I used that time to do some planespotting with my beginner photography skills. Observed some of DJ and JQ operations out of MEL, while my colleague were still doing some work on her tablet. The boarding call was made with the order of Business Class passengers, Passengers requiring assistance, and Economy class passengers. Long queue of passengers were forming, which shows loads were almost full for the flight.


Our aircraft and the long aerobridge


Long queue for boarding at gate 8


Boarding

On the L2 door, two of the flight stewards welcomed us onboard, and showed us the direction to our seats, 33H and J accordingly, which was the third row of the Economy Class seats. Our flight on that day was operated by V8-BLA, an aircraft used to fly for SQ as 9V-SVF. As seen in the pictures, the SQ interior remains even after the aircraft was leased to BI. After the doors were closed, a Muslim prayer was played in the Inflight entertainment system, praying for the safe journey ahead. The inflight safety video was then played after the prayer, while the aircraft was heading for the runway.



The purple and blue seat as seen in old SQ interior


The seat 33K beside my seat


Adequate legroom for the flight


Seatback view



Prayers prior to take-off


Safety video

The flight took off at around 12.35pm local time, and headed northerly for BWN.

In-flight


Views of the cabin after take-off


Welcome onboard 'Skyshow' Inflight Entertainment System


English or Bahasa Melayu, anyone?

Shortly after take-off, the Skyshow inflight entertainment (IFE) system was activated. As I was extremely tired, I selected a list of songs that I listened usually and turned them to near-maximum volume on my headset, and started sleeping, while the infants on row 30 started crying. I was awaken when the crew was distributing peanuts with choice of drink, and then continued sleeping again.


The peanut and OJ


My meal tray with Lemon chicken


Closer look at lemon chicken meal


The vanilla ice cream dessert


Scene from 'Brave' in IFE.

The crew pushed their meal cart for the meal service around 2.5 hours after take-off from MEL. The meal consist of Lemon chicken with fried rice or Roasted beef with mashed potatoes, which I opted for the first choice. The fried rice tasted good and quite filling. Then I tuned for the Disney's animation film 'Brave' which was featured in their IFE guide. Later on, after the meal service, crew members coming around with trays of vanilla and hokey pokey flavour ice creams. It feels good to watch a movie while eating a vanilla ice cream.


Compared to my previous flight onboard BI, this time round, the set of cabin crew members was less robotic, and they indeed made the extra effort to interact with passengers, although the load were near full on that day. The steward, Mr. A, serving my aisle joked that he was the most forgetful flight crew as he actually forgotten our meal choices, shortly after he asked what choice of meal do we want. On the next row, when some passengers complimented that the lemon chicken was delicious, he joked that 'Really? I should cook lemon chicken at home next time then," which passengers laughed to his response.


Passengers were either taking a nap or enjoying 'Skyshow'



Distance to Mecca is shown as part of the moving map


Rows 30-32


Our flight progress in the moving map

Throughout the flight, the crew members came down into the alley to offer some rounds of drinks to keep passengers hydrated for the 6.5 hours flight. They also actively helped passengers traveling with infants. Shortly before descent, the crew distributed snacks consisted of oreo.

Landing into BWN


Approaching BWN


Islands seen on descent


Views while on approach to BWN

While we were flying over Sulawesi, Captain Sofyan, as he introduced himself in the PA, announced that shortly the aircraft would start its descent into BWN. The weather was expected to be clear with the temperature of 26 degrees celcius. On descent, crew members collected the headsets as the IFE was switched off. Views of Borneo rainforests was seen outside our window as we approached BWN airport.


Welcome to Brunei International Airport (BWN)

We touched down at BWN around 5.15pm Brunei local time, which was two hours slower than MEL. Crew members apologised that with the ongoing renovation project at BWN, passengers movement are limited and hence inconvenience were caused. My colleague and I were one of the first few economy passengers disembarking the flight, being seated at the third economy class row.

Now, its time for us to wait for our connecting flight, BI 795 to SUB which was scheduled to depart around four hours from our arrival in BWN.

[Edited 2012-09-25 11:10:53]

9 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently onlinedirktraveller From Singapore, joined Jan 2011, 587 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (1 year 11 months 4 weeks ago) and read 6921 times:

Transit in Brunei Airport



Brunei Airport itself was considerably small compared to other Southeast Asian counterparts such as KLIA, Changi Airport or Suvarnabhumi. However, with its tiny size, the airport was very well maintained and comfortable for the wait. As my colleague and I had been having long nights of work prior to this flight, we decided to spend our time at the Coffee Bean in BWN, and update ourselves on our work with the convenience of Wi-fi offered on the café. A free city tour of Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei’s capital was offered to transiting BI passengers.


The Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque


Jame'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque


Night market


Kampong Ayer, "Venice of East"


While we were transiting on the airport, these are some of the views of Brunei that you might want to see if you are planning a visit to the Sultanate. The picture was taken from my previous trip to BWN back in April.


User currently onlinedirktraveller From Singapore, joined Jan 2011, 587 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 6788 times:

Our connecting flight to Surabaya, Indonesia [i]

Flight Details:

Flight Number: BI 795
Type of Aircraft: A320-232
Registration: V8-RBS (msn 2135, delivered to BI on 08.12.2003)
Seat Number: 26F
ETD: 2140
ETA: 2250

After spending good three hours indulging ourselves on our iPad tablets, thanks to Wi-fi offered by the Coffee bean shop where we enjoyed our cold drinks, the announcement that we have waited finally come.

[i] "Passengers flying Royal Brunei Airlines flight 795 to Surabaya please proceed to Gate No. 8 for security checks"


Boarding


Passengers waiting for BI795 at gate 8
We headed straight for gate 8, which was part of the expansion of Brunei Airport. The gate was located quite distant from the main departure hall. There was a secondary security check before we entered the gate. The small gate was only 3/4 full, which might be an indicator that today's flight would not be full.


The aircraft flown us to SUB that night, V8-RBS

Passengers waiting for BI 795 were focusin]g their eyes on the local TV broadcast on the Brunei royal wedding, in which the Sultan's daughter was having her marriage ceremony, while waiting for the boarding call. I tried several attempts to take a picture of the airframe that flown us to SUB that night, V8-RBS. The flight was still being prepared for the two hours hop to SUB when the picture was taken.

At around 2110 hrs, boarding call was made and everyone lined up to enter the Airbus A320 through the aerobridge. The passengers mainly consisted of Indonesian workers based in Brunei or other Middle East countries, along with some connecting passengers from Malaysia or Australia.


My seat, 26F


Our legroom, more than enough


Muhibah Inflight Magazine and the Safety Card for the A320 series

My colleague and I were originally seated at 27A and B, the second row of economy class, but due to the low load on that night, we were able to move to 26D and F, which was vacant at that time. It was slightly something strange for me that RBA started the economy class seats with row 26, after the first three rows of Business Class.

Prayers were played in the PA system, followed by Safety video played in the overhead screens while the A320 was taxing to the runway. The flight took off from BWN ahead of schedule, at 2125hrs, heading southerly to SUB, overflying cities such as Balikpapan and Banjarmasin of Indonesian Borneo.

In-flight


The meal tray with my chicken satay meal


Chicken satay meal with rice cake

Shortly after take-off, the crew members swung into action preparing the meal service for the 1 hour and 55 minutes hop to SUB. The very polite steward serving my side of the aisle that night offered us a choice of pasta or chicken satay with rice cake. Both of us ended up choosing the chicken satay with rice cake. It tasted delicious.


'Just for laughs' on the overhead screens

After the meal service, crew members distributed Indonesian landing and customs forms. Citizens of Indonesia are only required to fill the customs forms only, while foreigners must fill both forms. The 'Just for laughs' video were played for the rest of the flight time, and lights are dimmed to allow passengers to rest for the night hop to SUB.


Our seats, while the lights on the other half of the cabin were dimmed.

When I was heading to the toilet, I asked the steward on the back galley if I could take some pictures of their Business Class seats, since it was empty upfront. The steward told me that he had to ask the purser's permission, which I was informed shortly after that the purser allowed me to go to the front and take some pics.

An Exclusive Look: Royal Brunei Airlines Regional Business Class, Airbus A320

The purser welcomed me when I entered the J cabin, and I explained in brief my purpose of taking pictures of the J class seats. She then told me to take my time, and told me that her subordinate could help me should I require any assistance. Nice gesture to welcome aviation enthusiasts onboard the flight. Well done BI.  

BI Regional Business Class on the A320 consists of 12 recliner seats, with the seat pitch of 44". The seats were equipped with the personal screens with non AVOD IFE. A power plug was also available under the seat, enabling passengers to charge their gadgets in-flight. Here are some pictures on the A320 Business Class:

Landing into SUB


Moving map shows we were approaching SUB

After I went back to the Economy Class section, the captain, Will Turner, as he introduced himself through the PA, told us that we were on approach into SUB and expected the passengers to follow crew's instruction in preparation for landing. The 'Just for laughs' video was switched off and the overhead screen was back on the moving map.


Parked beside CX A333

The moving map showed that we were already above the waters, approaching the Java island for our landing into SUB. Our flight landed at Juanda International Airport, Surabaya at around 2235hrs, 15 minutes ahead of schedule. We taxied to our parking position, which was just beside a CX A333. We were the first few passengers to disembark from the aircraft and hence the immigration was free from queue by the time we reached their counters. Baggage claim took some 20 minutes for our baggage to come into the carousel.


SUB Arrival Hall


Information screen showing our baggage claim carousel


Baggage claim carousel

After the baggage claim, we headed out and I bid farewell to my colleague who went back to her house, while I was staying at my relatives' house in the Eastern part of the town. Hence, with our arrival into my birthplace, and also my colleague's hometown, Surabaya in Indonesia. I had fulfilled the promise I kept to fly with my colleague back to SUB, with the help of BI.

Final thoughts of the flight

Having flown all the way from MEL to SUB, I could see that Royal Brunei (BI) is certainly a hidden gem of the Asian aviation industry. BI may have an outdated equipment, compared to the likes of SQ, MH, or even GA. People may not been much aware of their presence of the region compared to the other carriers.However, BI crew members on both of my flights was really impressive. They made the effort to interact with passengers despite the state of full house of the B772 flight. The crew members were also active on doing drink rounds throughout the flight.

Furthermore, BI meal service on the MEL-BWN sector was remarkable as well. During the 6hours 35 minutes, the carrier served the Y class passengers peanuts, main course, ice cream, snacks, and rounds of drinks. Having flown the route on different carriers, I found that their meal service was quite impressive. Certainly, I felt that BI deserves more credit for its effort. I do hope that they could expand larger someday and maintaining their impressive service of the same time. All the best for BI, I would look forward for another flight with them one day!

Any comments or questions would be greatly appreciated! See you on part 2 of the trip report.

Regards,
Dirktraveller


User currently offlinejoffie From Australia, joined Mar 2006, 810 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 6463 times:

Great report

Royal Brunei is certainly an under rated airline, however nice to see full loads from MEL. I first flew them in 2009 from Brisbane to London via Brunei and Dubai on the 767 in J class, because they were offering dirt cheap airfares, and fund them, for what they are, very nice.

I flew them this year from KL-MEL with the stop over in Brunei in J on the 777, because they were actually the same price (or a little cheaper) than what Air Asia wanted in their premium.

I think they have 787 on order but they are still a few years away?


User currently onlinedirktraveller From Singapore, joined Jan 2011, 587 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 6186 times:

Hi Joffie

Thanks for reading.
Must have been a nice experience that you experienced their J class services!

Quoting joffie (Reply 3):
offering dirt cheap airfares

With their relatively cheap airfare, they offered really good service. Sometimes I was just curious how could they always offer such low price promotions, to the extent that their price could compete Air Asia or Jetstar on similar route.

Their 787s are due to arrive next year (2013). Hopefully with their 787 delivery we could see RBA expanding to some new destinations.

Regards,
Dirktraveller


User currently offlineMSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2474 posts, RR: 15
Reply 5, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 6021 times:

Hello

Great report, thanks for sharing it with us.
BN does not look bad at all, a bit of a shame that they are not planning on installing their own product on their flagship.
Brunei looks good as well

Greetings
Marc



Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
User currently offlinePlaneHunter From Germany, joined Mar 2006, 6807 posts, RR: 77
Reply 6, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 5929 times:

Hi dirktraveller,

great report about your journey on BI. I particularly enjoyed the A320 part of the report because I cannot remember having seen it covered here.

The product in general looks fine. Actually I considered flying BI between LHR and DXB this year, but the one-way fares were too expensive.

Quoting dirktraveller (Thread starter):
As seen in the pictures, the SQ interior remains even after the aircraft was leased to BI.

Two 777s have already been returned to SQ, I'm wondering how long BI will keep the others.

Quoting dirktraveller (Thread starter):
I was awaken when the crew was distributing peanuts with choice of drink, and then continued sleeping again.

Did they wake you up for that?

Quoting dirktraveller (Thread starter):
The meal consist of Lemon chicken with fried rice or Roasted beef with mashed potatoes, which I opted for the first choice. The fried rice tasted good and quite filling.

Not bad at all!

Quoting dirktraveller (Thread starter):
Compared to my previous flight onboard BI, this time round, the set of cabin crew members was less robotic, and they indeed made the extra effort to interact with passengers, although the load were near full on that day. The steward, Mr. A, serving my aisle joked that he was the most forgetful flight crew as he actually forgotten our meal choices, shortly after he asked what choice of meal do we want. On the next row, when some passengers complimented that the lemon chicken was delicious, he joked that 'Really? I should cook lemon chicken at home next time then," which passengers laughed to his response.

Very nice!

Quoting dirktraveller (Thread starter):
A free city tour of Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei’s capital was offered to transiting BI passengers.

That's really cool, great offer. How long did it take?

Quoting dirktraveller (Thread starter):
The very polite steward serving my side of the aisle that night offered us a choice of pasta or chicken satay with rice cake. Both of us ended up choosing the chicken satay with rice cake. It tasted delicious.

Another interesting meal. Never seen rice cakes served on board before.

Quoting dirktraveller (Thread starter):
The purser welcomed me when I entered the J cabin, and I explained in brief my purpose of taking pictures of the J class seats. She then told me to take my time, and told me that her subordinate could help me should I require any assistance. Nice gesture to welcome aviation enthusiasts onboard the flight. Well done BI.

Very good to hear about such a enthusiast-friendly attitude.


PH



Nothing's worse than flying the same reg twice!
User currently onlinedirktraveller From Singapore, joined Jan 2011, 587 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (1 year 11 months 3 weeks 6 days ago) and read 5740 times:

Hello Marc and PH

Thanks for reading!

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 5):
bit of a shame that they are not planning on installing their own product on their flagship.

Yes it is a bit of shame, but I guess they found it redundant to refit the aircraft with their own interior for a short-term leased aircraft.

Quoting MSS658 (Reply 5):
Brunei looks good as well

You should drop by when you're visiting Southeast asia, it is an interesting place to visit actually.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 6):
Actually I considered flying BI between LHR and DXB this year, but the one-way fares were too expensive.

Its quite strange to hear that, BI usually offers low prices on this side of earth.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 6):
Two 777s have already been returned to SQ, I'm wondering how long BI will keep the others.

Yes, V8-BLD and BLE had been returned. If I'm not mistaken, the four others is expected to remain until the 787 arrives, which I heard was around another one or two years.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 6):
Did they wake you up for that?

No they did not, my colleague did.

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 6):
That's really cool, great offer. How long did it take?

The tour itself was around two hours. For additional information, if your transit is after 5pm, you could join another type of tour which includes the night market, but that tour is charged at BND 25 (USD 20)

Quoting PlaneHunter (Reply 6):
Never seen rice cakes served on board before.

Its not a common type of aircraft meal. But it has been increasingly common lately, I had rice cakes on my flights with GA two months ago.

Regards,
Dirktraveller


User currently offlinestipica From Croatia, joined Feb 2011, 426 posts, RR: 8
Reply 8, posted (1 year 11 months 2 weeks 6 days 1 hour ago) and read 5168 times:

Hi dirktraveller !
this BI report is so nice and it is very motivating ... when 787 comes I hope it will be the same price policy present heheh ... I will be considered BI for my Australian trip ...thanks stipica  



Open your eyes and think
User currently onlinedirktraveller From Singapore, joined Jan 2011, 587 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (1 year 11 months 2 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 5033 times:

Hi Stipica

Thanks for reading.  
Quoting stipica (Reply 8):
when 787 comes I hope it will be the same price policy present heheh

Hehe, if the same policy applies after the delivery of 787, I would definitely try their 787.

BI usually offers good deals to Australia, you should consider them if you're flying to the down under someday.

Regards,
Dirktraveller


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