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Royal Brunei's five-route suspension eats up stopover market
Gracia Chiang, Bangkok, October 7, 2011

FLAG carrier Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) is shaving off flights from the capital of Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuching, Ho Chi Minh City, Brisbane, Perth and Auckland for the time being, a move that members of the trade say will impact transit traffic.


Flights to Kuching service have already stopped, while flights to the other four cities will operate until end-October.


RBA controller direct sales Kelvin Goh told TTG Asia e-Daily the performance on those routes was “just not there”, although he was not informed when flights would resume.


In a press release, the company said this was part of a stabilisation plan, in order to allow it to “improve its operations, financial performance and customer service experience”.


Said Anthony Tours & Travel Agency commercial director Nordin Besar: “ Although it's just a suspension, it will affect the trust people have (in RBA) if it wants to resume those routes or start new services. We have started looking at other Asian carriers, and perhaps will use Singapore or Bangkok as a hub.”


RBA had just launched flights to Melbourne in March, while Brunei Tourism appointed a marketing representative for Australia/New Zealand earlier this year.


Nordin did not want to comment on what kind of difficulties the airline was facing, but cited the emergence of low-cost carriers and diluted marketshare as possible reasons. AirAsia currently operates flights to the sultanate, and Cebu Pacific Air recently started serving the destination.


Megaborneo Tour Planner managing director Khirul Zainie said the changes would require some re-routing of itineraries. UK travellers, for example, flying from London into Bandar Seri Begawan en route to Kuching would now use Singapore or Malaysia as a transit to Kuching.


“We will lose out on transit traffic from Australia, but for leisure operators packaging Borneo, the pinch probably won't be much,” he added.


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What is currently happening in Royal Brunei Airlines is a miniature case of an Asian flag carrier. By comparison, Garuda Indonesia doesn't serve Jakarta-Manila. But look Philippine Airlines knows the strategy, as it links the two ASEAN capital cities by flying at night. RBA in this case should map strategical routes. Or else, look for partners such as the establishment of Air France-KLM.
Posted by: Nugroho Setiatmadji
07-10-2011 18:21:42
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