I have been wanting to fly with Royal Brunei Airlines (BI) for some time now, particularly having heard resounding feedback of the excellent services and meals offered on this boutique airline.
Operating a small fleet of Airbus 320s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners (which the airline has marketed as the 787 Betterfly), Royal Brunei Airlines has a relatively modest route network (with long-haul destinations limiting to Dubai, Jeddah, London, and Melbourne). I found it quite tricky to schedule an experience with Brunei Darussalam's national carrier, and in the end, it was an excuse to visit the oil-rich nation that enabled my Royal Brunei Airlines experience to materialise.
Originally, my plan was to fly on Royal Brunei Airlines' state-of-the-art 787 Betterfly product, which was scheduled to operate between Kuala Lumpur and Bandar Seri Begawan, unfortunately, after I booked my ticket, the operating aircraft was downgauged to the older Airbus 320.
Nevertheless, I was looking forward to the first ever Royal Brunei Airlines inflight experience.
Checking-in at Row E of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) left a very pleasant first impression, being served by a friendly ground agent who was very helpful in confirming my pre-selected window seat (52A), and made some small talk with me about my travel to Brunei Darussalam. He also kindly directed me the right direction towards the passport control. With long snaking lines, the immigration process at KLIA was slow and trying, but that's another tale to tell.
The downgauge from the 787 Betterfly to a 13 year old Airbus 320-232 (Registration: V8-RBS) was disappointing but it didn't leave me with a bitterfly experience. Even with a relatively full passenger load in Economy and limited entertainment options, the hard product is compensated by the dedicated and attentive service of the flight attendants.
By the time I reached my gate, having survived my passport control trauma, it was almost time for boarding. Priority boarding was provided for families with young children, Business Class passengers, Royal Skies members, and those seated on paid preferred seats. With few eligible passengers for priority boarding, soon, the rest of us poor "status-less" passengers could board. Entering the aircraft, I was warmly greeted by two cheerful cabin crew stationed at the Business Class galley. Eavesdropping on their predicament as they were deciding between themselves if it was more appropriate to greet "good morning" or "good afternoon" owing to the noon departure, I was bemused, as I made my way to my seat. A selection of newspapers was available at the aircraft's entrance.
The flight attendants could be seen actively assisting passengers to their seats and with stowing their carry-on bags, and doing some shifting to ensure adequate space for everyone in the overhead compartments. They also paid special attention to those families with young children, which was a great first impression of Royal Brunei Airlines service.
On this older Airbus 320 aircraft, standard Economy Class seat pitch is 31-32 inches, with a recline angle of 10 inches, which ironically, is a more comfortable product versus Royal Brunei Airlines' newer Airbus 320 which offers a 30 inch seat pitch and a recline angle of 4.5 inches for the standard seat.
What I find quite amusing is the presence of a vanity mirror where the personal entertainment screen is usually located. Though the mirror can be closed, It is somewhat awkward as I could see the passenger behind me in its open position. With this innovative beauty tool at your disposal, there isn't much excuse to disembark from your Royal Brunei Airlines flight looking disheveled.
Aside from narcissistic moments indulging in the vanity mirror, inflight entertainment comprised a short programme screened on the overhead screen (I believed it was "Discovering Fashion - Givenchy"), and some music channels. Headsets were distributed soon after take-off, and collected back prior to landing. Listening to Melodi Melayu ("a top selection of Malay music by today's popular artists" as described in Impian inflight entertainment guide) as I gazed out of the window at the South China Sea below was the perfect entertainment on this short flight.
On Royal Brunei Airlines, in line with Islamic principles, meals served are certified halal and no alcohol is served onboard.
There were two choices of main course, a Western choice of chicken in mushroom sauce and potatoes, or an Asian choice of fish and rice. I had the fish and rice option, and it was excellent. It was fish fillet in a mild curry, served with steamed rice and acar (pickled vegetables). The portion of fish was enormous - I could only imagine the sea monster that the fish must have been when alive, and the flesh was very firm and chunky, signaling how fresh it was. The crunchy acar added a much-appreciated sweet-spicy kick to my meal. The appetizer of bell pepper salad with roast beef was well-drenched in dressing, and was a savoury starter. What I enjoyed most was the melt-in-the-mouth kuih talam dessert (layered pandan and coconut cake), which was oozing in a wonderful pandan flavour.
I enjoyed my meal with mango juice, and I can attest to its one-of-a-kind fresh mango taste. I'd strongly recommend trying mango juice on your own Royal Brunei Airlines flight. When the meal trays are collected, I requested for a cup of tea (served with milk), and was a happy camper for the rest of the flight.
The flight attendants, comprising an all-male team in Economy Class, displayed a cheerful and customer-oriented attitude throughout the flight, which made the flight very pleasant. I strongly feel part of creating excellent service is the attention to the fine details. The Royal Brunei Airlines flight attendants did just that. At boarding, they tried their best to make space in the full overhead compartments so parents with small children could stow their carry-on bags above their seats and have easy access to their belongings during the flight. In distributing the immigration and customs forms, they were careful in checking with individual passengers if they were holding Bruneian or Malaysian passports to issue them the appropriate forms, which is a small and time-consuming but customer-centric effort on the part of the flight attendants.
Also, inflight announcements made by both flight deck crew and flight attendants were crystal clear and very polished - something I attest to the professionalism of the Royal Brunei Airlines crew.
The flight attendants were observed being very accommodating, with numerous requests for additional drinks and requests by many passengers to pass through the meal carts to use the lavatories during the meal service being graciously obliged. It is not easy to accommodate every request, especially on a relatively full flight with a short flight time, the Royal Brunei Airlines flight attendants was able to do just that, and doing so with professionalism and sincerity.
After all the favourable reviews I have heard, I was harbouring rather high expectations of Royal Brunei Airlines. The verdict? I was not at all disappointed. The experience from check-in to disembarkation had been a smooth and enjoyable experience. In particular, the customer-focused services by dedicated and attentive Royal Brunei Airlines flight attendants had been excellent. Even on a 2 hour flight, the meal served was delectable. On this flight, though I may have missed out on flying on the 787 Betterfly, I certainly did not miss out the excellent Bruneian hospitality with Brunei Darussalam's national airline.
Thank you for reading this flight report on Royal Brunei Airlines.
The full video of my Royal Brunei Airlines flight BI872 experience can be found here: