Sunday, November 05, 2006

Royal Brunei Airlines's fleet expansion meets growing demand

By M K Anwar

The confirmation by the nation's flagship carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines, that it is planning to expand its fleet and is set to order several new and bigger planes to service its growing trunk routes and to slowly phase out its ageing B767s have been viewed as an exciting prospect for the company.

The fleet expansion programme was confirmed on Thursday by the Vice President of RBA Corporate Communications Hj Rozman Hj Junaidi. Observers have noted that it is about time RBA embark in such endeavour. Air travel as they say is picking up slowly.

The need for fleet expansion is even more compounded by the fact that RBA's trunk routes, Australia and Europe, have been growing.

"Demand has grown and we have to find ways to accommodate the growth," Hj Rozman said.

Furthermore the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have already reported that the 2006 international passenger traffic for the first half of the year grew 6.7 per cent in this region and is forecasted to grow 6.5 per cent a year until 2009. Undoubtedly RBA will also be gaining a share of this passenger traffic and despite the arrival of the low cost airline into the country.

Established on November 18, 1974, RBA is an independent corporation wholly owned by the government of Brunei Darussalam.

So far its fleet consists of six Boeing 767-300s, two Airbus A319s and two Airbus A320s. All its fleet of Airbus' was delivered in 2003 and 2004.

The exact types of aircraft that will replace the 767 have not been revealed but aircraft manufactured by Boeing or Airbus has the criteria that are been considered by RBA.

Both Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 or A340 for example can carry more than 260 passengers and many believe that these aircraft wil be suitable for the expansion. The decision on which aircraft to be leased will only be announced early next year and currently RBA is said to be evaluating the options carefully to produce the best outcome.

A reader giving her comment yesterday said that RBA should be following other airlines in the region which have gone far beyond expectation.

One such airline they say is Vietnam Airlines. Established in 1989 as a state enterprise, it has now gone from strength to strength with more than 30 aircraft. It revenue in 2005 passed the US$1 billion mark and has plan to order more aircraft.

"This Airline can be one of the models which RBA can follow," they commented.

Acquiring new aircrafts is also seen as another way to save fuel costs. It is understood that most new aircrafts are now more fuel efficient than before. The 777 for example is said to be a fuel-efficient aircraft together with the newer version A330-A340.

Higher fuel cost was also mentioned by the VP of RBA Corporate Communications as the reason why the airline has to consider their options carefully. Other airlines including RBA have to introduce fuel surcharge to recoup the rising fuel costs.

Courtesy of: Borneo Bulletin Sunday

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