Despite its middle Eastern sounding name, the tiny but wealthy Sultanate of Brunei lives in northern Borneo, surrounded by Malaysia and the shores of the South China Sea. Last year, I flew Royal Brunei Airlines to Melbourne, with a stopover in Brunei itself on my return. This year, I flew Royal Brunei Airlines again, this time to Sabah and Kota Kinabalu, with a stopover in the curious country again. While I went on to Singapore, MrTravelLab flew business class back to the UK with Royal Brunei Airlines.
Here’s his review…
I awoke from my slumber to discover I was at the bridge of the starship enterprise, futuristic controls at my fingertips, a computerised display in front of me and multi-coloured lights illuminating the cabin around me…. I was sure I had been in an airport lounge just hours before. Was I dreaming?
No, I was Dreamlining, on Royal Brunei’s brand new Boeing 787, flying direct from Bandar Seri Begawan to London, and doing so in some style.
The control panel was in fact to manipulate the versatile business class seat between upright, reclined and sleeping positions and the display was my personal television screen, showing the latest films, tv shows, games or an interactive map of the ground thousands of feet below, dependent on my personal preference.
The windows were larger than normal and the standard clunky plastic shutters made way for a variable tint control. These could be centrally operated by the crew to stop some maverick passenger from opening their shutter in the middle of the ‘night’ and waking everyone up.
“Would you care for something to eat now Mr King?” With an 8 to 3 passenger to staff ratio, Royal Brunei easily added the personal touch.
I chose from my menu, tailored to my dietary requirements as requested. I fancied a glass of wine, but as Royal Brunei is a dry airline, with no alcohol available on board, I settled for fruit juice instead.
Talking of sleep, I was excited to see what my control panel could do. The seat extended to a completely flat bed, with a crisp white duvet and pillow. I wallowed in the joy of stretching out and contemplated the hours of peaceful sleep I was about to have. I nestled into the pillow and closed my eyes, but to my surprise I was cramped and uncomfortable. The bed’s narrowest part was right where my shoulders were and I couldn’t find anywhere to put my arms – maybe I’m an untidy sleeper. I folded my wayward limbs into a suitable arrangement and the quiet cabin combined with the low level of lighting did give me the peaceful sleep I had longed for after all.
I hadn’t dreamed the multi-coloured lighting either – Royal Brunei’s rainbow lights are their way to wake you gently and reintroduce you to the real world of luggage reclaim and passport control. I’m not sure of the logic – maybe there are hours of neurological research and several PhDs behind it, or maybe someone just thought it looked cool.
Personally, I thought I was guiding the Starship Enterprise through outer space, and I was pretty happy about it!
While not essential due to the flight timetables, Brunei makes a nifty spot for a quick couple of days to break up the jet lag. It’s a small place but has rainforests, stilted water villages, grand golf courses, mosques and hotels and one of the most intriguing museum collections in the world: gifts from heads of state across the globe to his majesty the Sultan of Brunei.
Disclosure: We paid a reduced rate to fly with Royal Brunei Airlines as part of a project with iAmbassador, Sabah Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines. As ever, as always and as you can probably tell, we kept the right to write what we like here on Inside the Travel Lab. Pics are ours too.
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