A royal flight on Royal Brunei – a surprise awaited me from Dubai to London

Late last month, I was on a whirlwind round the world trip. To get from Toronto to Brunei, I spent 55 hours flying, to be 23 hours on the ground. The reason I was on the ground in Brunei was because I was invited to address the Sales, Marketing and Commercial leadership of Royal Brunei airlines on their annual summit. The topic was around creating an endearing brand, based on concepts and case studies from SOAR. The feedback for the presentation was great, though the focus of this article is the 55 hours spent in the air.

Brunei flight path

I flew from Toronto to London and connected on to Royal Brunei’s flight from London to Bandar Seri Begawan via Dubai. That was a lot of hours spent in a new 787 cabin, on an airline most of the world isn’t too familiar with. Flying Royal Brunei after many years was refreshing.

Royal moments on Royal Brunei

There were a couple of remarkable moments on my flights. Since it was a long flight, I wanted to charge my iPhone, but the charging didn’t seem to work for some reason. As the seat next to mine was empty, I tried plugging into that outlet too, but it wasn’t working. Disappointed, I continued working, hoping that my battery would last till I landed and reached the hotel. A few minutes later, I was surprised when one of the flight attendants kneeled next to me and softly asked if I would like to try using her iPhone charger instead! She then handed me her charger. I plugged it in and it worked. It was a nice gesture I thought. But perhaps a one off.

When we took off after our stop in Dubai, a new crew had taken over. This time, I merrily indulged in some movies while dinner was served. One of the items on the menu was a “potato and celeriac soup with brioche croutons”, which I devoured as it was served. I gulped down the warm soup as it tasted good. When the flight attendant came to take away my plate, instead of automatically bringing the main course, he asked if I liked the soup. I said I loved it. To which he asked if I’d like another bowl. I gleefully agreed to his recommendation! It was certainly a memorable meal.

Proactive service that didn’t cost much

In both these instances, I received proactive service that I’ve come to expect on carriers like Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines. The fact that a Royal Brunei flight attendant went above and beyond was impressive. The fact that it occurred on two different legs operated by a different set of crews showed that it wasn’t a one off.

Indeed, when I asked the Royal Brunei CEO the secret behind their service standards, he told me that a significant effort has gone into training the crew over the last five years. In fact, the training is delivered by the same people who train the Singapore Girl! I was impressed.

Going above and beyond is not something that comes easily. Airlines that can deliver that consistently, build endearing brands. Royal Brunei is certainly on their way to do that. They are probably one of the more underrated airlines. Do try them out when you get a chance.

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco.Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others.Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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Showing 3 comments
  • Mohammad Hassan
    Reply

    Great to hear or rather read that an esteemed aviation branding expert like Mr Sashank Nigam really appreciated the Royal Brunei (RB) cabin crew service fit for a ‘king’. As a no-frills Bruneian who always ‘shoe-string budget-wise’ travel the so-called best low-cost airline in the region, I’d second Mr Nigam’s motion. Sometime last year I accompanied my half-blind, wheel-chair bound, diabetic and elderly mother for a return trip from Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei to nearby Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on board an RB flight to attend a relative’s wedding in the neighbouring Malaysian state. As it turned out, watching how my beloved mother enjoyed that short journey, she was really treated like a real queen from the moment I pushed her wheel-chair toward the departure entrance one good Friday, right to the return flight back home the following Saturday. And all the while, this nervous son had been worrying too much about the worst that could’ve happened to her during our short flight to and from Sabah, particularly knowing that my mother had undergone a heart by-pass surgery some years ago. But all those panicky worries were left behind as soon as the ever so friendly and helpful ground crew at both ends of the Brunei International and Kota Kinabalu international airports respectively had taken real good care of my sickly Mum as well as the cabin crew whilst she was aboard the aircraft! So much so that I didn’t have to lend them a helping hand. Looking at my mother’s happiest and cheerful-looking face then, that must’ve been the best return flight of her life, albeit the shortest-range of only an hour long to and fro… Thank you from the bottom of my heart, RB Crew! 🙂

    • Shashank Nigam
      Reply

      Glad to know you had a good experience with RB as well Hassan. Ultimately, these little moments add up isn’t it?

      • Mohammad Hassan
        Reply

        Such golden moments for my Mum do add up indeed, Mr Nigam. And it was quite a brilliantly-simplified but an unbiased piece of a long-haul RB flight travel-journo experience that you’ve shared, too!

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