I stopped on the gang way and glanced out of one of the small windows at the aircraft before me. I could see the painted white body, wings curved gracefully upwards like that of a bird and with that my name was called and I was drawn from my day-dream as smiling faces greeted me from beneath the cathedral-like ceilings – or as cathedral-like you could get on an aircraft – at the door.
This was my first time flying Royal Brunei Airlines, the first of 6 flights I’d take with them, and I didn’t know what to expect.
Late last year some of my friends flew from London to Melbourne with Royal Brunei and, upon catching up for a coffee, declared them to be a great option, well priced, comfortable and offering exceptional service. This piqued my interest even more when they told me about the Dreamliner – Boeing’s newest airplane that was more environmentally friendly, offered mood lighting and declared that they offered a better fly for all; a bold choice of words.
Little did I know that just 6 months later I to would be boarding a Royal Brunei flight bound for London, with a few stops on the way.
Seats in Business Class
“Welcome onboard Miss Smith,” a smiling attendant greeted me and offered me a drink as I nestled into my Business class seat. Glancing around I was quite pleased with the space. Not only did the overhead compartment sweep upwards, eliminating some of the claustrophobia you can experience on planes by creating a greater sense of space but there were plenty of nooks to place items that I’d need inflight.
For easy reach there was a small storage space under the centre console, that included a USB outlet, power socket and earphone plug; there was also a silver button that can be pressed which will raise the arm rest turning into a screen to offer just a little more privacy during sleep.
I did find that the position of the power socket a little bit bothersome and wish it had retained its position at the base of the centre console like in older Boeing models.
One of the most attractive parts of Royal Brunei’s Dreamliner is that the chairs turns into full flat-lie beds, which of course was the first thing I tested out as soon as we were airborne! The control panel also offers a massage function which was well used throughout the flight, especially as I tried to get some work done.
When sleep finally called – or even just a nap after the five course lunch, more about that below – the cabin crew provided me with a soft sleeping pillow and cosy quilt to curl up into. In fact, one cabin crew member went as far as tucking me in on one of the flights.
Inside the spacious business class bathrooms are motion sensors for the flush and sink, smart closing seats and bidet functions (more about that in this post).
I wasn’t sure what to expect on the menu onboard Royal Brunei. What is ‘Bruneian’ cuisine? Over the course of the flights, as well as during my time in Brunei, I discovered that Bruneian cuisine borrows heavily from its neighbours – Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.
At the beginning of each flight I was presented with a dining card with the options for the flight and just before take-off I was asked which meal I’d like for a main. By ordering before take-off it meant the food could be cooking and I could relax and just let my meal come to me.
On the first leg, Australia (MEL) to Brunei (BWN), I enjoyed all five courses that was offered to me, and boy was I glad I skipped breakfast!
To start were hors d’oeuvre; a rosemary skewer with lamb and pineapple alongside a piece of brie and chutney atop toast. The entree was a delicious soup which I think was a broccoli and stilton with garlic croutons. Bread and breadsticks were also provided. The main was a chicken dish with a side of steamed Asian greens and rice. Dessert took part in two courses with a pineapple tart sided with custard as well as a fruit and cheese plate. (More food pictures below!)
There is also a light selection, which varied from panini’s to noodles, and also a Dine Upon Request option.
The Dine Upon Request option allows Business class passengers to order anything from the menu to enjoy at any point throughout the flight, though 30 minutes will be needed to prepare hot dishes.
On one leg I gratefully ordered the noodles with strips of grilled chicken after falling asleep while we were still on the ground and while catching up on a favourite TV show I couldn’t say no to a Haagen-daz ice cream!
Just a quite note on beverages. Royal Brunei offer a range of beverages including soft drinks, juices, iced drinks, coffee and tea but they are a dry airline. This means you will not be able to purchase alcohol onboard. I have heard that you can bring duty-free bottles onboard and drink but this may not be the case for all flights.
This was the one area I felt a little let down by Royal Brunei. Although the screen size is quite good – Business class passengers are treated to 15.4″ screens and Economy offers passengers a 9″ screen – the pixel quality is a little grainy. They also edit a lot of the TV shows.
The Big Bang Theory is not quite the same without the sexual innuendo and a lot of the Big Bang Theory shows fail to make sense after the editing. Same goes for movies. I only watched one movie but the way it was edited left gaps in the plot line and it wasn’t as enjoyable as I had hoped.
The range of movies, TV programs, audio and games was quite good but for all of my other flights I instead chose to watch TV shows from my iPad, mainly because when I fly if the only time I have to really immerse myself in a TV show and not have outside distractions so I wanted to ensure I enjoyed the show and not just 80% of it.
I understand that Royal Brunei, and Brunei as a country, is a Muslim nation and that some censorship is not uncommon but I think they should choose TV shows that don’t need as heavy editing or perhaps country specific. It’s also something that I feel Australian, British or other nationalities should be aware of.
Between Australia and London Royal Brunei Airlines makes two stops. The first in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei’s capital, and the second in the UAE, in Dubai.
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
At the time of visiting the main airport of Brunei (BWN) was undergoing extensive renovations and upgrades. Currently, there are only a few stores including a cafe, convenience store, souvenir store and perfume store open on the airside though a larger selection of stores are open before customs, including a Burger King which is opening soon, restaurants and pharmacy.
The airport also features Royal Brunei’s Sky Lounge for Business class passengers and members of their Royal Skies mileage program.
It’s a comfortable space and includes a buffet, a selection of local and international newspapers, cold drinks, free locker storage, free WiFi, and TV’s dotted throughout the lounge with different programs screening.
I experienced two different airports when flying through Dubai. On the way over we landed at Dubai World Central Airport (DWC) due to runway upgrades happening during the month of June at the main airport, but returning we landed at Dubai International Airport (DXB).
DWC currently is a mainly cargo airport though a few regional and seasonal flights do fly in, including Wizz Air and Qatar Airways, so there isn’t a whole lot to do. There are a few duty-free stores and food outlets, as well as a Business lounge on the first floor.
DXB, Dubai’s main airport, offers a comfortable stopover experience. I’d only ever experienced Terminal 3 – Emirates and Qantas’ terminal, a wealth of duty-free shops and home to Shake Shack, my must stop in Dubai – but Terminal 1 offers a completely different experience.
Terminal 1 spans across three floors, with the small choosing of well-stocked duty-free shops. In particular, there is a lot of lollies and chocolates, make-up, alcohol and cologne or perfume to buy. There’s also a small Emirates pop-up store, a few cafes including a Starbucks and a Coffee Bean, and a lounge for Royal Brunei Business passengers use during the stopover.
Does Aircraft Type Make a Difference on Flight Experience?
I’d never really considered purposely choosing one type of aircraft over another, even being a big Boeing fan. I love being on a B787-400 but then flying an A380 for the first time was also quite an experience but I wasn’t blown away.
I was pretty impressed with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
When I initially flew the Dreamliner I thought it was good. Lots of space, beautiful LED lighting system that is said to help reduce jet lag, spacious design that eliminated much of the claustrophobia you really notice on long-haul flights and of course the windows that are 60% bigger than other commercial airlines which help connect passengers to the flying experience. The other things seemed sort of irrelevant until I flew another airline and I realised how lucky I had been onboard the Dreamliner.
One thing that was a huge difference was how I felt getting off my Royal Brunei flight in Melbourne versus arriving in the USA on another airline with a different model plane.
Getting off the Royal Brunei flight I felt refreshed and rejuvenated, in need of a shower after nearly 24-hours of flying, but not all dried out and stuffy. At the time I put that down to being well prepared onboard and just having a really good skin day generally, but I didn’t once touch my make-up bag and I didn’t drink nearly half as much water as I usually did.
Fast-forward 18-hours when I touched down in the USA on another airlines plane and I felt drained, dehydrated and exhausted. I wasn’t sure whether to put it down to two long-haul flights in such close proximity or if there really was something different. Returning home from the USA to Australia on the same airline I had the same experience; despite sleeping onboard I felt dehydrated and just gross, so I did a little more research.
On the Boeing website it claims that the Dreamliner’s cabin environment technology allows for lower altitude levels and higher cabin humidity levels that help combat the feeling of dryness alongside their new air filtration system that eliminates smells and airborne bacteria. (Trust me, after the whole cabin has eaten the chicken curry for a main you will notice the smell. Wait another 5 minutes and you’ll find it’s disappeared completely!) One of Royal Brunei’s crew that I had chatted with mentioned that “[her] skin, it feels so much nicer, less dry, after flying the 787” and I really do agree with her.
I had an amazing time flying with Royal Brunei Airlines. I’m not used to having multiple stopovers on my way to Europe but it was a nice way to break down the flights and, if I had more time, to see a number of exciting cities.
The crew were super attentive to my needs but didn’t feel stifling and definitely rank high amongst my favourite airline crews alongside Cathay Pacific and Hawaiian Airlines.
The Dreamliner is a smart plane and offers a lot for flyers without them even realising, from aesthetics to health benefits and I can’t wait to fly onboard another Dreamliner.
Would I fly with Royal Brunei Airlines again? Yes, in a heart beat.
I find their product to be of a really high quality and value for money compared to some other Asian airlines (Royal Brunei Business class airfares are currently around AU$3,500 Melbourne to London which is the price of some economy airfares!), as well as Brunei being a great stopover point to explore Borneo or to head to other areas of Asia. These factors, along with great service, are just some of the reasons that I do think that Royal Brunei offer travellers a better fly(ing experience!)
Now it’s over to you
What feature do you value the most when flying long-haul?
Have you, or would you, consider flying with Royal Brunei?
If you’re looking for a window seat don’t choose 11A or K because they are windowless seats.
My trip onboard was arranged by Royal Brunei Airlines and Boeing
but this has not influenced my thoughts and opinions about the airline in any way.
Some of these photos are owned by Royal Brunei Airlines.
I am using them with permission because I didn’t want to disturb passengers.