My fiancée and I just spent a weekend in Brunei visiting friends. It has been 6 years since I last took a Royal Brunei flight. Things did not seem to have changed much. Read on and find out….
Flight No. BI 634
HKG to BWN
Reg. No. V8-RBK
Departure time 1200h
Arrival time 1450h
Flying time of 2h 40m
We checked in at the HK Airport Express train station at 1000h. That left us plenty of time to take the 25min train journey to CLK. I was disappointed that they used Dragonair boarding passes rather than the nice yellow/black ones of BI. After all, this was a code-share with KA.
Having arrived at the airport by 1050h, we went straight through security and immigration. The airport was rather deserted, considering that it was a public holiday. We were through in a few minutes. We decided not to go to the lounge, so we browsed around the shops. There were plenty to shop at CLK, even for us locals and we bought some nice local T shirts and a bag. By that time, we had to head to Gate 30, where our plane was waiting.
On the way to the gate, I saw a CO B777-224/ER (N78001) preparing for its ultra long flight to EWR. There, of course, were plenty of the ubiquitous CX planes of various types. Other planes I saw included an LH B744 readying for its flight back to FRA, a CI A340, a China Southwest A320. It was not very exciting for me.
Boarding was called for at 1125h. The flight looked half empty judging by the length of the queue. The First/Business class queue was non-existent. No pax in F/J?
On entering the aircraft, the F/A’s did their best to squeeze a smile out of them, which were very contrived. At least they showed us to our seats. The cabin looked a bit shabby, albeit clean. The seats were all a bit tatty and worn down, including the business class ones. The Y class seats were hard and quite uncomfortable. They did not seem to have been changed since my last flight with them all those years ago.
By 1150h, everyone was on board. So, the doors were closed and the F/A’s handed out cold paper towels and headsets. Now, this time, the headsets were electronic, not the pneumatic type I remembered from my last flight with them. They then had the safety demonstration, which nobody seemed to have taken notice. Even the F/A’s looked bored doing it! After that, they showed an Islamic prayer with English subtitles. I saw a Muslim passenger praying along with the video. Basically, it was a travel prayer, praying for Allah to see us through our journey safely. This feature had not changed, which I was glad because it did have a calming effect on us, even though we were not Muslims. Also, the prayer has become a symbol of BI!
The taxiing was long. We followed a Dragonair A321 in the take off queue. No sooner had the KA flight departed, we started our roll and were airborne very quickly.
Then, we were all woken by an extremely loud and cheerful Australian captain doing his PA. “GOOD AFTERNOON LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!” he boomed with a cheerful lilt. This was the loudest ever PA I have ever heard! He then explained more about the flight.
The flight path was basically a southerly one, taking us down to near the coast of Philippines before heading straight to BWN.
A snack service started after reaching cruising altitude of 35000 ft. They gave us a packet of peanuts with a savoury garlic-flavoured crust. They were delicious. But, the orange juice and the pineapple juice were terrible. They tasted really foul. A point to note is that the airline does not serve alcohol. However, non-Muslims are allowed to bring alcohol on board for personal consumption.
Lunch was served shortly afterwards. It consisted of either chicken rice or fried fish. We had a sample of each and were disappointed by both of them The fish was very dry. The chicken was slightly better due to the fact that they had three little sauces to go with it!
As to the IFE, the system was not working well and Celine Dion seemed to have a permanent sore throat!! The socket for the headset was loose and so I had intermittent stereo sound. I had a headache after listening to it for five minutes, so I gave up. They then showed a short documentary on Islamic culture, which would have been interesting had the headset been working normally.
The flight went rather slowly without good entertainment. Luckily, we had each other for entertainment!!
At 1420h we started our descent into BWN. We could see the coastline below us, then lots of rainforest, albeit much less than the last time I was here. There were more houses now. Some of them were on a hill and seemed alarmingly close to our descending plane! BWN is a quiet airport with few air movements, so there was no need to circle around. We landed at 1450h. The rundown was rather bumpy, probably due to the surface of the runway. The cabin fittings shook on landing. The plane seemed to be developing arthritis with age!! There were only three other BI B767’s on the ground. I could not see any other airlines. The goodbyes on disembarkation were rather cold. Not many smiles around.
Overall, the product seemed some way behind the more prominent regional carriers. Had the F/A’s showed more enthusiasm, warmth and smiles, it would have more than made up of their lacking in hardware. There was only one male F/A who was good. The others were rather cold and seemed to be just ‘doing a job’.
Flight No. BI 637
BWN to HKG
Reg. No. V8-RBH
Departure time 1755h
Arrival time 2045h
Flying time of 2h 35m
After a couple of days visiting friend and staying at the fabulous Empire Hotel in Jerudong, we were driven to the airport in a Mercedes S-Class 600 with compliments of the hotel. We arrived at BWN airport at 1635h. The place looked empty. There were only a handful of departing flights: one to BKK/DXB/FRA, one to Brisbane and one to SIN. There was nobody at the HKG flight check in. So, we were done in less than a minute. They have started to charge a departure tax of B$12 each, which was not the case last time I was there. The government, after a few recent hiccups, is obviously hard up on cash and needs to increase its coffers. We had to wait for a friend to come, so we waited in the check-in hall. We saw some F/A’s being dropped off by their spouses/partners. They looked really miserable. Just like how they looked on board!!
We went through immigration and security at 1715h. There was one person in front of us. He was chatting to the immigration officer for a while before leaving the counter!! It goes without saying that it did not take us long to go through the formalities.
We wandered around the few duty-free shops airside of the terminal. We could not find anything to buy. So, we went to our gate, number 4. There were the two other BI planes at the other gates, but there was no plane at Gate 4!! I saw an AN-124-100 (RA 82079) of Volga Dnepr Russian Cargo Airlines in the Freighter area. It was a first for me and I was rather excited
My fiancée was rather relieved that I was only watching these kind of birds and not the human kind!!
Boarding was called for at 1740h. It was supposed to be by row numbers, but the PA was very faint. Anyway, there were not many passengers, so it did not matter. We were told to board at Gate 1 where V8-RBH was waiting. Nobody explained why.
On entering the aircraft, the crew was a bit friendlier this time, but still, some looked very cold. Smiles, again, were not to be found easily. The pre-flight routine was the same as the last flight. They again showed the prayer video.
This plane had a First Cass section. The seats were in leather and gold. Even the seat belts were in gold! The arrangement was 2-1-2. It looked good, but I could not see their famous First Class toilet with the gold basin! However, the seats did not seem to have PTV’s. The business class section was again in the 2-2-2 arrangement. The seats, again, were tatty and worn down. In Y, the seats were the same as before. At least, this time, the IFE worked well.
The flight was very empty with a load of maybe 20% in Y. there may be one passenger in J. I did not see anyone in F.
The service was exactly the same as before. Dinner was served at around 1850h. One option was the chicken rice. The other was a rather tasty beef stew with creamed potatoes.
We watched a documentary on Islamic Culture in Central Asia. It was interesting. The F/A came round with some drinks after the show as a second service.
We started to descend into HKG at 2015h. We approached HKG from the South East. We did not have to circle around for a change. Landing was very smooth. The taxi to our gate was not too long because we parked at some remote gate. Disembarkation was at 2055h. The F/A’s again did not bother say anything to us in the Y section. Only the purser by the front door said a rather cold ‘Goodbye’.
Overall, this flight was about the same as the one before. They should really do something about the grumpy F/A’s. the tatty seats, the IFE and the general decor of the interior. I read that they have an ex-CX guy as their new CEO and hopefully things will improve. Royal Brunei did win a few accolades before in the 90’s. With the others advancing ahead, they seemed to be left behind in the race. They should not rest on those past laurels. It is such a sweet little airline from a sweet little country. I would love to see it being great again.
I have some photos. If anyone interested, you can email me. I could not load them on this site. Sorry!