Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) will join an already crowded field offering a one-stop product on the Kangaroo Route between Australia and Europe when it begins nonstop Bandar Seri Begawan-London Heathrow service with Boeing 787-8s from the end of October.
Currently, RB serves the United Kingdom capital as part of a Bandar Seri Begawan-Dubai-London Heathrow routing.
However, from October 28 2018, it will drop the technical stop in Dubai and instead operate to London nonstop from its Bandar Seri Begawan hub.
As a result, passengers flying on RB’s daily Melbourne-Bandar Seri Begawan flight will from that date have a one-stop journey to London, rather than the current two-stop routing.
RB said on Monday the new nonstop flight to London would reduce the round-trip travel time to/from Bandar Seri Begawan by about three and a half hours, while those starting or ending their journey in Melbourne would shave 5.3 hours from their journey.
“The introduction of RB’s non-stop flight to London Heathrow will be a significant milestone as for the first time Brunei and England will be seamlessly connected by a direct air link,” RB chief executive Karam Chand said in a statement.
“With the strong cultural, economic and political ties between the two countries, it is only natural to provide the seamless non-stop connection.
“The through flight via Dubai has served us well however with the demand for more direct routing from our guests, it becomes an important commercial imperative to provide that.”
The BI3 will depart the Brunei capital at 0015, arriving in London at 0650 the same day. The return BI4 is scheduled to take off from Heathrow at 1705 and touch down in Bandar Seri Begawan at 1440 the next day.
The new flight has also led to some timing changes to RB’s Melbourne service. While the BI5 from Bandar Seri Begawan to Melbourne is broadly unchanged as an overnight service that touches down in Melbourne in the early morning, the BI6 from Tullamarine will from the end of October be an evening departure, taking off at 1840 and landing at 2240.
Currently, BI6 departs Melbourne at 1215.
“With these changes, RB has also updated its schedule for its Melbourne flights to cater for better connections within its long haul route network,” RB said.
RB said it would continue to serve Dubai with four flights a week.
Figures from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) showed RB had a 0.3 per cent share of all international passengers in February 2018, the latest month for which figures are available.
Further, its Melbourne-Bandar Seri Begawan flight had average load factors of 92 per cent on inbound to Melbourne and 62.6 per cent on its outbound to Bandar Seri Begawan.
Despite the disadvantage of a two-stop product to London, RB had managed to capture 9.5 per cent of all passengers travelling between Melbourne and London Heathrow in the five months to May 2017, according to figures from Qantas and Emirates’ 2017 application to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for reauthorisation of their alliance.
Its market share trailed only Qantas (27.1 per cent), Etihad Airways (15.5 per cent) and Emirates Airline (10.3 per cent).
RB’s London route may be further supported with a second Australian route, with RB considering serving Brisbane with Airbus A320neo narrowbodies.
The airline has seven A320neos on order, with deliveries expected to start later in 2018. The aircraft will be powered by CFM LEAP-1A engines.
“The neo brings Brisbane into the mix”, Chand told CAPA in Jun-2017. “We did Brisbane before so we will relook at it pretty hard.”
The airline’s 787-8s feature 18 lie-flat business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration and 236 economy class seats at nine abreast with 33in pitch and 17.2in width.
RB’s move to a nonstop service was flagged, but not announced, on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow in early February, when Boeing announced it had signed an agreement with the airline to retrofit its 787-8 fleet with overhead crew rest bunks.
The work would be completed at Boeing’s Shanghai facility and “allow the carrier to fly the 787-8 airplanes on long-haul routes, providing increased operations flexibility to the fleet and operator”, Boeing said in a statement on February 6.