BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) has repurposed one of its seven A320neo aircraft into a cargo carrier as it seeks to capitalise on growing air freight demand.

In a statement issued on Friday, the national carrier said its first dedicated cargo-in-cabin flight took off on June 21.

The newly converted cargo aircraft will initially operate five times a week across the region.

RB chief executive Captain Khalidkhan Hj Asmakhan said the airline is diversifying its operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re delighted to launch this new service to the cargo community to further support the strong regional demand and of course continue our role of transporting essential supplies and services into and from Brunei,” he said in the statement.

“Our cargo operations have performed strongly over the last 12 months and this A320neo conversion allows us to further build on our capability, network and the strategic location of Brunei to maximise the opportunity,” the CEO added.

Royal Brunei Airlines CEO Captain Khalidkhan poses for a photo with staff on board the A320neo, which has been converted into a cargo aircraft. Photo: Courtesy of RB Airlines

Global air cargo demand reached a record-high in March this year, up 4.4 percent compared to March 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association.

RB has been grappling with the impact of COVID-19 as travel restrictions across the world have led to weak passenger demand.

The majority of RB flights have been suspended, while staff were required to take compulsory leave and foreign pilots were laid off last year.

The flag carrier currently flies to nine destinations to maintain trade connectivity for food, medical supplies and other consignments.

RB has been finding ways to make money over the past year, providing hospitality training courses, curated dining services at its Brunei business class lounge and operating its Dine & Fly domestic sightseeing flights.