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Brunei Darussalam is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. This small nation-state has one international airport - Brunei International Airport that is served by a number of airlines including Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines as well as Royal Brunei Airlines, which is the flag carrier of Brunei Darussalam. The other airport is Anduki Airfield, which provides helicopter flights to near-by destinations. The Department of Civil Aviation is the main regulatory body responsible for any civil air transport operations in this state. This body was set up to bring uniformity and regularity in the developments of the civil aviation sector of Brunei Darussalam.
Airports in Brunei Darussalam
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Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) should start to see improvements over the next year in its long-haul operation after completing the transition to an all-787 widebody fleet. The long-haul network, which has been highly unprofitable and relies heavily on transit traffic, will also benefit from new regional feed from Bali and Ho Chi Minh.
RBA’s short-haul operation, which is not nearly as unprofitable as it relies primarily on higher yielding point to point traffic, should also see improvements as the network is expanded. Larger gains will come in 2017 when the airline starts to take delivery of A320neos, which will reduce operating costs and open up new medium-haul routes that are too thin for widebodies.
RBA is looking at using the A320neo to resume expansion in Australia and launch services to South Asia. Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo may also be added as part of a new five-year plan. Modest expansion is a realistic scenario for RBA as the flag carrier is now tracking ahead of the targets set in its last five-year plan, which was prepared in 2011 and initially focused on a restructuring.
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner was billed as a "hub-buster", an aircraft that would open new routes and allow passengers to fly non-stop in thinner markets rather than transfer via a hub. With the 787 approaching three years of service, how have airlines used the aircraft? Looking at routes planned for the northern winter 2014/2015 schedule, 17% of 787 routes have been launched with the Dreamliner. The remaining 83% have had the 787 replace or supplement an existing aircraft.
The 787 has had a difficult entry into service, with airlines intending to launch routes with the 787 but having to use other aircraft types as an interim measure. If we include such known examples of routes launched with an interim aircraft and later switched – often mere days or weeks later – to the 787, the share of 787 routes opened with the Dreamliner increases to 20%.
Royal Brunei Airlines leaps forward with 787. Early A320neo or 737MAX slots to provide another boost
Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) will make a big leap in improving efficiency and profitability on 1-Dec-2013 as the carrier introduces Boeing 787-8s on the Bandar Seri Begawan-Dubai-London Heathrow route. Another leap could occur in 2016 or 2017 as the carrier, somewhat surprisingly given its very small size, has received aggressive proposals and early delivery slots for new-generation narrowbody aircraft.
RBA became in Oct-2013 the first 787 operator in Southeast Asia. It has already taken delivery of two 787-8s, one of which is in static display this week at the 2013 Dubai AirShow. RBA will be the first carrier to operate the 787 between Dubai and London, one of the world’s largest routes, and in Mar-2014 will become the first carrier to have an all-787 long-haul operation.
RBA meanwhile is in the closing phases of a competition between Airbus and Boeing for its new-generation narrowbody requirement, which includes over 10 aircraft for delivery from end of 2015. Airbus and Boeing are offering early delivery slots for their A320neo and 737 MAX families, with support from leasing companies, and the campaign has become very competitive as Boeing is eager to switch RBA’s narrowbody fleet from Airbus. RBA has already ruled out Embraer and Bombardier, after earlier considering large regional jets.
Southeast Asia airline market sees more rapid growth & high international low-cost penetration rates
Southeast Asia continues to post some of the highest growth rates in the global aviation industry, driven primarily by expansion in the region’s booming low-cost sector.
LCCs now account for over 50% of capacity in Southeast Asia’s four largest domestic markets – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Even more impressively, LCCs have been able to rapidly claim about a 50% share in the intra-Southeast Asia international market.
But there has also been growth in 2013 at nearly all of the region’s flag carriers. A large portion of this growth has been on regional routes as full-service operators have been able to join the LCCs in taking advantage of the generally favourable economic conditions in Southeast Asia.
Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) is eager to move on to the last phase of its new business plan as it becomes the first airline in Southeast Asia to operate 787s. An initial fleet of four 787s, which will be placed into service in 4Q2013 and 1Q2014, will significantly improve efficiency and should lead to a further reduction in losses of RBA’s long-haul network.
One of Southeast Asia’s smallest flag carriers has come a long way since restructuring in 2011, when three medium/long-haul and two short-haul routes were cut. So far the results have been positive with RBA’s short-haul operation having already turned the corner and is now growing again in response to surging demand for travel within Asia.
RBA is now looking at also renewing its narrowbody fleet, which would result in further cost savings. But the carrier still has an uphill battle in reaching profitability given its small size and the prospect of increased competition with LCCs.
The lure for an airline to grow beyond its home market by targeting sixth freedom traffic is as old as the jet age: bygone Icelandic carrier Loftleidir ruffled feathers in the 1950s by carrying far more passengers than its local population while KLM in 1957 listed on the New York Stock Exchange, partially to quell nationalist fears it was taking too many passengers from the US.
Efforts to focus on sixth freedom traffic come and go: KLM has remained (upwards of 80% of its passengers transit its Schiphol hub) while Emirates has sprung up (now as the third largest carrier in the world). And, as Chinese and other north Asian airlines expand their roles, now carriers like Aeroflot are making new pushes into sixth freedom traffic.
Aeroflot's Moscow hub has strikingly similar geography to Helsinki, where Finnair is betting its future on sixth freedom traffic, while claiming a network that can rival those in Europe and the Middle East.