On December 1st 2013, Royal Brunei’s 787 Dreamliner pushed back from the gate and taxied onto the runway, ready for its inaugural flight to London Heathrow, via Dubai.
I was sat in business class, ready to review what is hoped to become a popular route for travellers heading from Melbourne, Australia to the sunny UK. Well, the UK, anyway and was getting ready to have a look about.
So let’s get down to business. Although I didn’t pay for my flight, I flew on the understanding that I’d report back the good, the bad and (if it came to it) the ugly. As ever, as always. Otherwise, what’s the point? Check out my other reviews here to see for yourself.
With only 18 seats, arranged in pairs, this layout suits those who are travelling in couples or with friends and family rather than the solo business traveller. While there is a screen you can use to gather a little privacy, it’s something of an afterthought: this design is for interacting with the people around you.
Chairs fold flat to sleep with an array of positions in between for relaxing plus a cotton covered duvet and proper pillow to help you get to sleep. There’s plenty of storage beneath your feet and above your head but few pockets within reach when you’re seated.
Entertainment-wise, you’ll find the usual suspects with a 15.4 touchscreen monitor and headphones. You can charge devices in flight, although the position of the plug makes it a little tricky and prone to falling out as you sleep. The reading light is well positioned and there’s a little foot rest to help you reach your overhead compartment if you’re on the short side, like me.
The 787 Dreamliner promises a quieter flight – and it certainly felt that way. The windows are larger but tinted and seal off light gradually rather than using the pull down shutters we’ve known and loved (or hated) for years. This makes more of a difference to the feel of the cabin than you might expect: you can see the raindrops on the windows, for example, as a reminder that you are really flying through air rather than wrapped up snug in a strange vibrating box.
Staff were attentive, exceptionally polite, quiet and friendly. They had a few issues to contend with that I think result from it being first flight nerves and routines (they ran out of fast track cards, for example, and forgot my meal – but did their best to address these issues in a kind manner. Unfortunately, as a result I didn’t get to try the main menu but did get a rehydrated noodle-based dish instead.) As in the Kingdom of Brunei itself, there is no alcohol served.
Now, for my route I was already in Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei.) For passengers planning to travel direct from Melbourne to London, there are stops in Bandar Seri Begawan and then again in Dubai. A business class seat allows you to bypass a lot of the hassle with the switch since there is no queuing as you leave and reboard the aircraft and pass through security and you have lounge access in Dubai (where you can also have a glass or two of wine in addition to the food buffets available.) You can leave your belongings on the plane if you wish. The lounge in Brunei has wifi, food and drink but a more limited range of both and – again – no alcohol.
So, are the two stops better or worse than one when you fly? I think it depends on you. If flying tends to make you feel claustrophobic, you may be glad of the chance to get off the plane and stretch your legs twice within the 24 or so hours in the air. If you just want to get it over with as quickly as possible, this route may not be the one for you.
What I loved
Quiet, comfy sleep. Polite service, plenty of space.
What to know
Two stopovers on the Melbourne to London route (although Brunei is an interesting place to spend a few days in)
Less privacy than other business class cabins – but better for couples/families/friends
All the photos so far have been my own except for the ones of the empty cabin, which are from the airline itself out of respect for my fellow passengers. Let’s face it, when you’re flying you don’t want people taking your photo and plastering it all over the internet, now do you? As for the guy beneath the duvet – well, I know him and I asked for his permission first!
Oh, and just so you know that I was there and did review this myself, I shall embarrass myself with quick snapshot of my good self on the plane. There, satisfied?!
As mentioned higher up in the piece, the cost of this flight was covered as part of the iAmbassador project #MelbourneTouring. As always, as ever, I kept the right to write what I like here and provide my honest opinion on the matter.
Happy Flying, Folk!
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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