BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Royal Brunei Airlines’ (RB) planned service to Beijing has hit a setback due to limited landing slots, said CEO Karam Chand, with the airline now aiming for a December launch — a year later than originally planned.

“We made an announcement of Beijing last year. Unfortunately Beijing [Capital International Airport] is an extremely busy airport and while there were indications we would get the slots, that hasn’t happened,” he told media during the recent delivery of the airline’s first A320neo in Toulouse, France.

Chand said RB is now targeting a December launch for the Beijing service, but said if the airline cannot secure the landing slots, they will look into flying to the new Beijing Daxing Airport, located 46km south of the city centre. When completed in September 2019, it will be the world’s largest international airport.

“Beijing is absolutely crucial because it’s a capital-to-capital connection. Given the very significant relationship between China and Brunei we feel this is a great opportunity to get Beijing into our route network.

“We’re just waiting for everything to line up operationally so we can start. So as long as we get landing slots we can fly there basically tomorrow.”

A model of Beijing’s Daxing Airport, scheduled for completion in Sept 2019. Photo: CCO

The flag carrier is intent on expanding its China footprint — its current network services three cities in mainland China — Shanghai, Nanning, Hangzhou, as well as Hong Kong — with plans in the pipeline to add more Chinese destinations.

Chand said the airline wants to focus its growth in east and north Asia:

“The opportunity for Brunei is in north Asia in a number key markets — Japan; China, we only have a very small foot print there,” he said, adding that RB is eyeing China’s secondary cities with a population of at least 5 million.

China is currently the second biggest market for tourist arrivals into Brunei, with over 52,000 visitors in 2017. South Korea has also been identified as the fastest growing market, with arrivals increasing 145 percent within the last year.