Saturday, February 27, 2010

Boeing, Boeing Gone Over Unfair Terms

Bandar Seri Begawan - The much talked of deal whereby Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) was to acquire three Boeing 777 for its awaited long-haul flights is off, aviation inside sources both in Brunei and in India said this week.

The Brunei national carrier was speculated to receive the three wide-body jets on lease this month from Jet Airways (India) Ltd but somewhere along the line the deal went sour and now it is most unlikely RBA would be interested in it anymore, sources said.

It is not known for sure why the deal collapsed after so much expectation but sources who did not want to be named said it had something to do with certain conditions in the proposed lease agreement that the Brunei party could not agree to.

However a Jet Airways source in India said that RBA did not like certain tax proposals in the lease which Brunei considered as unfair.

Sources in RBA, however, could not comment on this.

The Brunei carrier was supposed to take over three 440-seater planes which the Gulf Air of Bahrain formerly leased at $2.2 million each, but offered to Brunei at a lower rate. However, both sides seemed happy on the price struck.

Brunei's national carrier is however expected to continue with its route expansion plans with the expected operation of 737-800 next year.

RBA will also retain its option to buy Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" to reach new destinations although the current scuttling of the Boeing 777 deal could put its future plans at jeopardy temporarily.

But the airline was studying other alternatives, sources said. Key destinations like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Bahrain and Chennai were mentioned as the Brunei carrier planned to upgrade its ageing fleet.

Also on the cards were direct flights to London's Heathrow, Penang and Ujung Pandang in Makassar in Indonesia.

RBA, which is wholly owned by the government, began operations in 1975 with a flight to Singapore from the brand new Brunei International Airport.

Royal Brunei Airlines started out with just two Boeing 737s, one of which was put in service for the airline's first flight on May 14, 1975 from the brand new Brunei International Airport. Flights to Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching in East Malaysia also started on the same day, according to Muhibah RBA's Inflight magazine.

Within its first year of service, Royal Brunei's two Boeing 737-200 jets and its staff of 84 had successfully moved 36,000 passengers between Bandar Seri Begawan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kota Kinabalu.

The following decade saw Royal Brunei Airlines expand its regional network with Manila and Bangkok in 1976 and 1977 respectively and Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta in 1981 and 1984.

From its humble beginnings, Royal Brunei Airlines today flies to cities across the globe, from Asia to Europe and the Middle East to Australia and New Zealand, Muhibah says.-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin