Royal Brunei's Dreamliner in town
IT MAY be a small player in the region but Royal Brunei Airlines, the first South-east Asian carrier to fly the Boeing 787, is confident the Dreamliner will take it to new heights in Singapore and other key markets.
On Friday, the airline landed the B-787 for the first time at Changi Airport. Over the next six weeks, it will operate the plane for one of its two daily flights to Singapore and to other cities in the region, said its chief commercial and planning officer, Mr Karam Chand.
The plan is to entice travellers to fly Royal Brunei when the carrier eventually takes the B-787 long-haul to London from Dec 1 and to Melbourne in the second quarter of next year.
Mr Chand told The Straits Times: "We want our customers in our primary market to experience the product and comfort so that when they fly long-haul to London or Dubai or Melbourne, they will pick us."
After the six weeks are over and when more B-787s enter the fleet next year, Royal Brunei will bring the Dreamliner back to Singapore, said Mr Chand. "Singapore is a very, very important market for us, for both leisure and business traffic," he added.
In the year to end-August, total Singapore-Brunei passenger traffic hit 238,000, growing 7.8 per cent from the previous 12 months, said Changi Airport Group.
The introduction of the B-787 to Royal Brunei's fleet should help boost traffic, industry watchers said.
This is despite recent glitches that have hit the plane that has been flying commercially for about two years now. The latest was on Saturday, when a panel measuring about 2.4m by 1.2m fell from the underside of an Air India B-787 just before the plane landed in Bangalore.
Other problems include battery overheating which led to regulators grounding the entire fleet in January. Flights resumed three months later and there are now close to 90 B-787s flying with several carriers.
Boeing's senior vice-president (sales) for Asia, Mr Dinesh Keskar, who was at the Royal Brunei inaugural flight event, stressed that the Air India incident did not pose any danger to passengers and crew. He told The Straits Times: "This is not a panel that causes any safety issues."
THE STRAITS TIMES