"..a bardy view!"

A Right Royal Carry-On…..

I'm writing this from the beautiful Philippines, where I landed recently courtesy of Royal Brunei Airlines. The flight involved two stopovers from Heathrow. First for a refuel in Dubai for one hour.Philpiclogo

Passengers must leave the aircraft, pass through security, remove their shoes and belts for scanning, and then re-board the same plane and return to their original seats.

There's a very valid word in the English language for this procedure. It's called hassle! It seems to be a totally unnecessary security process that could easily be avoided if passengers were told to remain on board. If there's method in the madness, I hope to discover it someday.

I heard a suggestion that it saves on energy and air-conditioning, but I'm not entirely convinced by that argument. If it's designed to stretch your legs, it will more likely stretch your patience!

So onward and upward to Bandar Seri Bagawan the capital of Brunei, on the north-east tip of Borneo. The airport (with six departure gates) must be one of the most stress-free and smallest international terminals anywhere in the world, and nestles idyllically in a lush, green and tropical landscape.

Each gate can't be more than 20 yards from the other and within the central area are a handful of shops and restaurants and an abundance of comfortable seating. It is clean, airy, the ablutions second to none, and the staff extremely friendly. There are transit tours of the city for about £30 an hour, if time is willing. If you're in transit for more than five hours, then the tour is free. Fair enough!

The Sultan of Brunei is one of the world richest rulers, and his population of 370,000 all benefit from free education, free healthcare, and no taxes. It's an Islamic state, and alcohol is prohibited. Non-Muslims are allowed to take some booze into the country, but it is strictly regulated.

So onward and upward once more, this time on a small airbus which reinvents the phrase of flying by the seat of your pants. It's under two hours to Manila, which is about as much as one can sit on this type of aircraft if you're long-legged and burly like me. Which leads nicely to the Brunei cabin staff, who are certainly not burly, and possessed  with demure and grace which could not be further removed from yours truly!

Throughout the flights, even way back from leaving London, the crew were exemplary, and quite frankly put their jumped-up British Airways peers to shame.

The female attendants in particular, are the picture of sartorial elegance. Whilst they dress as if they've come off the set of Kismet, or casting for the role of Scheherazade, they have a charming and confident persona which belies their professionalism.

The male crew are equally assuring, though much more conventionally attired. The food is superb and soft drinks are served regularly. You even get hot and cold towels, which are something many more renowned airlines have ceased to do – shame on them.

As for entertainment, well that's the usual in-seat mix of movies and music. I watched the James Bond film Quantum of Solace, but it had been so heavily edited that I lost the plot. Lets face it, once all the sex and violence is cut, there's very little left!

Being an Islamic airline with strong religious observation, every flight is blessed just before each take-off. Praise and prayers (broadcast through the tanoy) are offered requesting a safe, secure and peaceful journey for all concerned. I'm not a Muslim, but respect other's beliefs, and in all honesty, I found it all strangely comforting and reassuring.

The complete journey was unusual in that it involved a double equatorial crossing. I wonder if this affects the metabolism, because my jet-lag is considerably worse than normal.

I was certainly ready for a stiff sherbet by time I landed in the Philippines, but as the glass touched my lips, I had the temerity to toast Royal Brunei Airlines – where, as far as I can tell – the passenger is still a person and not a commodity.

It's a most amiable carrier which also gave a sufficiently memorable experience to write this blog-post about.


May 4, 2009 - Posted by | The Philippines


  1. Excellent post and especially liked the bit about the passenger still being a person and not a commodity. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I have gone walkabout.


    Comment by spook | May 5, 2009 | Reply

  2. Welcome aboard, welcome home!


    Comment by naiza | May 20, 2009 | Reply

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