| James Kon |
ROYAL Brunei Airlines (RB) will soon be leaving more of its mark in the skies over Borneo after launching its RB Link flights connecting Brunei Darussalam with new cities in Borneo at the Collaboration Hub, RB Campus yesterday afternoon.
The roll out of the RB Link flights for Borneo was held alongside the launch ceremony for the national carrier’s Brunei-Brisbane services.
Partnering with Malaysia’s Malindo Air, RB plans to initially link Balikpapan in Indonesia to the RB network, followed by four potential new Malaysian destinations such as Tawau, Sandakan, Sibu and Bintulu.
RB is also currently in the process of evaluating more potential routes.
The top 10 cities in Borneo all have populations greater than 300,000, and RB recognises the huge potential of the Borneo market to the company and Brunei tourism and trade.
The first flight for this new Borneo service is expected to be made by the end of July.
Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II and Chairman of RB Board of Directors Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah, highlighted that RB will kick off the Borneo operation with two new ATR aircraft.
“RB will launch a regional aircraft operation, initially with two brand new ATR-72 aircraft,” he said. “The regional aircraft operation will be a key enabler to increase tourism, trade and movement of people within BIMP-EAGA and will further strengthen Brunei’s economic ties with the many cities of Borneo.”
He added that RB’s investment in developing air traffic in BIMP-EAGA also shows the commitment of Brunei to contribute to regional development and facilitates the movement of people between the different cities in Borneo.
“For RB this presents an opportunity to connect with millions of potential new customers and offer them air connectivity via an alternative hub. Borneo is home to approximately 21 million people and growing rapidly, thus this is an opportunity for RB to significantly expand its ‘home market’,” the minister said.
He highlighted the problem of many cities in Borneo being underserved by airlines, pointing out again that this is a gap that RB can fill.
“RB sees this as an opportunity to offer a convenient travel experience with hassle-free transit at the Brunei International Airport, a real alternative and better customer experience to what is offered today,” Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said.
“To get this exciting project off the ground, RB has joined forces with Malindo Air, an experienced and reliable regional operator, who will operate the flights on behalf of Royal Brunei Airlines.
“The booking and travel experience remains seamless and guests can expect the same high level of guest service.
“The inflight product is adapted to regional flying of short sectors with drinks and snacks on offer for the longer sectors.”
The minister revealed that the new aircraft will be deployed on RB’s existing routes of Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, while for the second phase scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2019, RB will start linking five new destinations to Brunei and its global network to make travel easier and more affordable across Borneo.
Chandran Rama Muthy, CEO of Malindo Air said, “We are honoured to work on this leasing plan with Royal Brunei Airline. The opportunity to collaborate with an esteemed national carrier from our neighbouring country means a lot to us, as i believe it is a testament to the reliability of our operations, in terms of crew’s eminence and aircraft maintenance.”
“It will be a privilege for us to support a renowned airline as Royal Brunei Airline in enhancing connectivity within Borneo, as we foresee a boost of passengers’ arrival to Malaysia’s airports. The expected business and tourist traffic hereafter will be in line with Malaysian government’s agenda to enhance the national economic trend,” he added.
“The RB Link product was first conceptualised when we developed our current five-year business plan in 2016, that is to have an expanded route network that creates value for Brunei Darussalam, RB, Brunei International Airport and our guests who are seeking seamless connections,” RB’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Karam Chand commented.
“RB Link flights will also support our network development, the national objective of delivering half a million visitors to our shores by 2021, and bringing additional revenue for the various stakeholders including the Brunei International Airport.
“The product has been tailored to suit short-distance flying with guests being served with sandwiches and drinks with the same RB signature services. RB and Malindo Air cabin crew will provide the cabin services and in the not too distant future, the flights will have Bruneian cabin crew.
“The aircraft, maintenance, insurance and crew – both pilots and cabin crew – will be provided by Malindo Air under this partnership. This arrangement, commonly known in the industry as ACMI Lease, will be in place for two years during which RB will explore the different options it has to further develop the Regional Link.”