| James Kon |
IT’S good news for travellers thinking of heading to Japan from Brunei, as Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) announced that it will now be flying directly to Tokyo three times a week beginning today.
The thrice-weekly flights to Narita International Airport, using RB’s new fleet of Airbus A320neo aircraft, will take place on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. And by June, it will increase to four times weekly.
To mark the significant milestone, a special reception dinner was held at the Serambi Batil Hall of the Arts & Handicrafts Training Centre in Bandar Seri Begawan yesterday.
Present as the guest of honour was Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah in his capacity as Chairman of the RB Board of Directors, alongside special guests Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib bin Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Setia Dato Paduka Haji Mohd Yusof and Ambassador of Japan to Brunei Darussalam Motohiko Kato.
Also in attendance were government officials, travel agents, business partners, corporate clients, RB Royal Skies Elite members, and RB staff.
Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew highlighted, “As a shareholder of RB, Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd works collaboratively with the government and GLCs such as RB, striving to improve industry structures and sector strategies. We thank them for their continuous efforts throughout the RB journey.”
He highlighted, “GLCs are economic catalysts in accelerating innovation and generating healthy competition through delivering cost-effective solutions that will benefit the local businesses, consumers and the nation as a whole. As we strive towards achieving Brunei Vision 2035, improving performance in these sectors will form a strong foundation to yield better quality services for the Brunei population as well as paving the way for a more conducive environment for foreign direct investments, not to mention job creation, gainful employment and others. RB is no exception in this aspect, particularly in the aviation industry and tourism sector. Evidently, RB is growingly seen as a strong player in this economy and industry, and within the South East Asia region.”
Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew also pointed out, “There is a vast untapped market to explore with Brunei as a tourism destination, and as the national flag carrier airline, the connectivity that RB provides is paramount in developing the nation’s Tourism Sector. RB and Brunei Tourism have been working closely through destination marketing campaigns that expand Brunei’s tourism portfolios such as hospitality, leisure and food services along with great connectivity, through ensuring safe and efficient air travel, all of which enhances the tourists’ experience.”
RB’s decision to launch the route to Narita, Tokyo, he said “bears testimony to the nation’s long-standing relationship with Japan. Having this route is an opportunity to further expand RB’s overall network with the focus on regional development, in particular, North Asia, as the market is expected to contribute significantly to the capacity of RB’s new fleet. This is part and parcel of RB’s strategic plans to boost revenue and stimulate more passenger traffic into Brunei, including attracting tourists from Japan.
“The numbers are rapidly growing, and we hope for the relations between Japan and Brunei Darussalam to grow just as fast. The focus will not just be on destination marketing activities, but also into tapping potential markets such as high yield cargo business.”
Motohiko Kato expressed, “The commencement of direct flight from Bandar Seri Begawan to Tokyo marks a new era for both countries.”
The ambassador hoped that an increasing number of Bruneians will visit Japan and enjoy the different seasons and Halal option of restaurants. March and April are the months when cherry blossoms bloom coinciding with RB’s direct flight to Japan.
He also wished that more Japanese people will visit Brunei and experience the vibrant greenery as well as fascinating culture and tradition of the ‘Abode of Peace’.
In addition to tourism, he hoped that more Japanese business people would visit Brunei to learn about the potential opportunity for investment.
RB Chief Executive Officer Karam Chand said, “We are delighted to welcome Tokyo as our 24th international destination and provide capital city to capital city connection with the launch of our nonstop Narita-Bandar Seri Begawan services.
“As RB resumes its connection to Japan, our Tokyo flight will be the first time in more than two decades that both countries will be connected seamlessly via air linkage. This marks a significant milestone for both Brunei and Japan as this new service will no doubt be an enabler for tourism and trade between our beloved nations and further strengthen the strong bond that already exists.
“As the national airline of Brunei, we want to play our role by providing the missing link on our new service to a key market such as Japan and be the catalyst to create more opportunities and collaborations between businesses, governments and peoples.
“We made a very conscious decision to select the A320neo as the aircraft of choice for our markets, including medium-haul markets like Tokyo. The cabin features and aircraft capabilities allow us to pioneer new routes of up to seven hours in duration which were previously the domain of wide-body aircraft.
“The A320 family of aircraft is becoming the aircraft of choice for new, long, thin markets and RB is one of the leading airlines to leverage on this with the Tokyo route, and soon Brisbane and Beijing,” Chand added.
“We congratulate RB on starting commercial services with their new A320neo to one of the world’s most famous travel destinations, Tokyo. With its comfortable cabin, greater operational efficiency and extended range capability, the A320neo perfectly suits RB’s strategy of offering premium comfort services across its extensive network in the Asian region,” said Executive Vice President Asia for Airbus Jean-François Laval.
The inaugural flight to Tokyo from Bandar Seri Begawan, flight BI695, draped in special Brunei Tourism livery, departed Brunei International Airport at 12.35am earlier this morning.
The flight, of which RB Chief Executive Officer is on as the RB head of delegation, is scheduled to land at Narita International Airport at 7.30am today.
A special dinner reception will be hosted by RB for its business partners tonight at Andaz Tokyo in Tokyo’s city centre to celebrate the milestone.
Last year was a record year for Brunei with 278,100 visitors stepping on its shores via air travel. RB’s objective is to grow this figure to half a million by 2021. The addition of the RB direct flights to Tokyo and other codeshare flights is expected to increase the number of tourists from Japan to an estimated 18,000 from a modest figure of 5,400 last year.