The London Heathrow to Dubai route is fiercely competitive with Emirates, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic investing some of their best kit and product on this increasingly popular service.
However, Royal Brunei recently reinvented its offering on the LHR-DXB route and as a result, has raised the bar in terms of the in-flight experience.
For starters, Royal Brunei is the first carrier to operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner between Heathrow and Dubai, stealing a march on the competition given BA won’t roll out this next-gen aircraft on the route until October 2016.
For those of you who are yet to fly the Dreamliner, it’s even quieter than the A380 and its advanced aerodynamics promote a smooth ride.
Noisy shuddering engines are also a thing of the past thanks to Boeing’s engineering prowess.
Combine this with Royal Brunei’s Business Class product and it’s a winning formula.
The cabin interior is neutral – brown and beige tones that are easy on the eye – and enhanced by in-flight mood lighting.
Then there’s the sensible Business Class configuration of 2-2-2, with the two seats in each pair sufficiently divided to avoid awkwardness, unlike rival BA’s so-called love seats where you come face-to-face with your co-traveller, which can make for an uneasy flight.
The seat itself is very comfortable and like most Business Class seats, can be manoeuvred into various positions according to the traveller’s own preference.
From upright to fully flat and everywhere in between, there’s a position to suit all body types and more than enough seat pitch (79 inches) to accommodate passengers on the tall side.
If you want to get technical, these electronically-operated ‘Contour’ seats have a translating leg and foot rest, four-way manually-adjustable headrest and a backrest with lumbar massager.
There’s plenty of storage space for bags, shoes, books and bits, plus a little cubby hole that provides the perfect spot for a bottle of water.
On night flights the 77-inch bed set-up is luxurious with a proper pillow and continental quilt to help passengers get cosy.
The in-flight entertainment is adequate, but could in all honestly feature more up-to-date content.
But that’s my only little gripe and it’s a tiny negative that’s far outweighed by the overwhelmingly hospitable in-flight service.
The cabin crew show a warmth that is rare in the airline industry. They are friendly, helpful and considerate and perceptive to passenger requirements, without being over the top. They are formal, yet soft and definitely not pretentious. Royal Brunei has got its cabin service just right.
And let’s not forget the cuisine, which is of a very high standard and allows passengers to ‘dine upon request’, choosing anything from the menu at any time.
Start with tasty canapés that include beef bresola with melon or cheese sambousak; followed by an entree of either cream of broccoli and stilton soup with garlic croutons, smoked salmon with halibut and stuffed pepper with feta cheese or mixed salad with walnut and pesto chicken; continue with tempting mains, from lamb biryani with pickle, chicken breast stuffed with wild rice and pomegranate jus or pan-friend salmon with hollandaise sauce; and then choose from three delectable deserts and a selection of cheeses.
Other lighter options include sandwiches and chicken or vegetarian noodles.
There is no alcohol or pork served on Royal Brunei, but this takes nothing away from the in-flight service. Whether you are a Muslim traveller or not, the no-alcohol policy arguably improves the service because it eliminates the risk of running into a ‘difficult’ inebriated passenger.
I’ve travelled on Emirates, BA and Virgin from London to Dubai and in my opinion, Royal Brunei stacks up exceedingly well against all three.
Judged on service alone, Royal Brunei has the edge, plus the Dreamliner is far preferable to the older aircraft the UK carriers operate.
The Dreamliner also wins my vote over the A380 quite simply because it makes for a stress-free experience. With fewer people on board there’s less hassle boarding, reduced passenger noise and a more attentive service.
Royal Brunei will be top of my list when booking my next flight to Dubai.
It’s a boutique airline offering authentic Bruneian graciousness that other carriers cannot replicate.
AT A GLANCE
First airline to operate Dreamliner on LHR-DXB route and in S.E. Asia;
Calmer cabin with invisible comfort from cleaner healthier air, reduced cabin noise and a lower cabin altitude;
Dynamic LED lighting, larger windows with adjustable tinting;
Composite construction and advanced aerodynamics for a smoother ride;
787 mood lighting;
Bigger overhead luggage space.
* Contour’ seats with 79-inch seat pitch, electronically-operated seat transition, translating leg and foot rest, four-way manually adjustable headrest, and backrest with lumbar massager;
* 15.4-inch touchscreen LCD Monitor with Panasonic eX2 in-flight entertainment system;
* 2-2-2 abreast seating with privacy screens;
* An estimated 11% more bed surface;
* 180-degree lie-flat bed with ottoman;
* In-seat PC power supply;
* USB port in each seat.
Royal Brunei flies to four continents and 15 cities;
The airline is a top pick for passengers flying from Heathrow to Dubai, Bali and Melbourne;
Kota Kinabalu and Manila are also popular destinations from the UK with RB.