Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

Flying just above 10,000 feet in the air, Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) brought nearly 100 passengers onboard its Airbus A320neo aircraft on a sightseeing adventure recently, circling the coast of Brunei and borders of Sabah and Sarawak.

It was the national carrier’s first ever scenic tour, departing from the Brunei International Airport and back to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan after completing an 85-minute flight to nowhere around Brunei’s and Malaysia’s airspace.

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

The concept flight dubbed “RB Dine and Fly” has received an overwhelming response with seats sold in just 48 hours just after the release about the flight was made public.

The well-received programme garnered over 300 guests on queue who are set to be scheduled for the next flights with the second to commence on August 30 at 10am.

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

Since the suspension of international travels due to the pandemic, the airline has resorted to this idea which may seem unusual but actually worked. Globally, the aviation and travel industry need to be creative with their business in order to survive.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister of Finance and Economy Yang Berhormat Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah, who was one of the guests during the special chartered flight, commented that for RB, the new concept gives opportunities for pilots to continue flying and the public who misses flying.

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

The start

Just like usual departures, all passengers were required to bring their passports for check-in as well as their printed or digital e-tickets to be presented at check-in counters.

For precautionary measures, the carrier adheres to government guidelines, practicing highest standards and stringent standard operating procedures to ensure health and safety of its crew and guests.

Not only guests had their temperatures checked at the airport, but also RB’s cabin crew and pilots prior every flight – giving everyone a peace of mind onboard.

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

What made the sightseeing travel more special were that all guests checked-in at the Premium Check-in Lounge, exclusive live commentary given by pilot and crew on the epic views over Borneo and the flight was operated on RB’s A320neo Brunei Tourism livery.

Prior to take off, everyone was all smiles and anxiously waiting at the quiet departure hall to board the aircraft for the first time since travel restrictions imposed earlier this year.

Image: Analisa Amu

Ground crew at the airport were seen wearing full PPE gear from top to toe when attending passengers, further guaranteeing that health and safety is well-taken care of.

Furthermore, to minimise physical contacts, guests were asked to scan their tickets at the boarding counter after showing their passport details to the staff.

Image: Analisa Amu

Although not disembarking in a foreign country, the concept flight acts as a remedy for those longing to travel or board a plane, even just looking outside from the plane window while enjoying a full-service flight.

For seats, worry not as passengers were mostly allocated window and middle for the best view and experience throughout the journey. What’s nice too, the aircraft is not on full-seating capacity.

To ensure the aircraft maintains a tip-top cabin environment, especially when guests go onboard the plane once again, RB aircraft undergo a thorough cleaning and disinfectant process which includes refreshing air every few minutes and is sterile and particle free.

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

The tour

As passengers approached the plane, cheerful smiles of the captain and cabin crew can be seen from a distance as they warmly greeted everyone at the entrance – a sight that is lively and familiar.

Despite not operating for quite some time due to no commercial flights, the carrier’s cabin crew did not fail to deliver quality hospitality to guests, a quality that RB is highly known and lauded for.

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

Another factor that makes Bruneians and international passengers love about RB is the recital of doa prior flight departure to bless the journey; and this has never changed.

Few minutes to depart Bandar Seri Begawan, the pilot gave his welcoming remarks to guests onboard about what to expect in the next hour.

Feeling anxious during take-off, the A320neo is already high up in the sky at 5,000 feet before realising it, the serene and lavish green Brunei is underneath us.

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

Everyone was on their phones and cameras to document every mile of the flight, capturing the breath-taking views that we have been missing or may not have noticed.

Flying smoothly across the country, the fuel-efficient A320neo have shown Tasek Merimbun in the Tutong district, Labi in Belait and not long after, Mount Mulu and Miri in the Sarawakian state.

After making a turn from the Malaysian border, the plane continued the journey along the coastline of Brunei, heading towards Sabah in the northern part of Borneo.

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

Our views shifted from the lush green forests to the clear and open blue South China Sea – also a familiar sight that passengers would always see prior to landing in Brunei.

The sultanate indeed has beautiful beaches and shores, one of the most frequented places by residents especially in the weekends.

Image: Analisa Amu

Moreover, about 30 minutes into the flight, guests were then treated to the airline’s scrumptious in-flight meal, prepared by Royal Brunei Catering.

Specially catered for the inaugural flight, RB served passengers with its “uniquely Bruneian” menu selection namely; Nasi Lemak with Ayam Goreng or the Ayam Masak Kunyit Kedayan with Rice along with the Gula Sago Melaka, and fresh fruits for desserts. 

Image: Analisa Amu

While enjoying the meals, the aircraft continued the no-turbulence journey flying above Labuan Island, Gaya Island in Sabah and Kota Kinabalu. 

The blue waters of Sabah were simply magnificent even just viewing them from above, what more to dip our feet in it.

After bidding goodbye to Kota Kinabalu, it was then time for us to return to the Bruneian airpspace with the pilot announcing that we will be circling over Brunei Bay. 

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

One last landmark to see before touchdown, the pilot announced, we will be passing by our country’s latest pride, the Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saiffudien Bridge – a brief tour over the megastructure specially made for the sightseeing experience.

At the 85-minute mark of the trip, we were finally back on the airhub’s runway as the A320neo made a smooth and perfect landing. 

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

RB’ s newest milestone is definitely one of a kind in its history and the high demand for future flights proved that people loved the idea. 

Next flights are scheduled on August 30, September 6, 11, 13 and 20 on flight BI45.

This article was first published on August 29, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 104

Image: Analisa Amu
Image: Analisa Amu

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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