A Travellerspoint blog

January 16 2011

Royal Brunei Airlines - THE TRIP IS OVER

overcast 25 °C

Well I haven't had a moan for a while, so here goes

The on-line reservation system is good, the people on the customer service number in London were very quick to answer the phone and very helpful and check-in at Heathrow was a breeze, and, in fact, the actually in-air travel was fine. But, the Royal Brunei staff would have trouble organising a piss-up in a brewery

At the departure gate at Heathrow there were 6 staff members; excellent you might think but unfortunately only 1 of them was checking the boarding passes and passports so we queued for ages and the plane left 1/2 an hour late

When we got to Dubai for our 1 1/2 hour stop, it took 1/2 an hour to get off the plane and into the airport as they have devised a very cunning method of counting people off (and back on)

When we got to Brunei at 10:15am, there was no information anywhere about where we should board the shuttle-bus to take us to our transit hotel. We looked outside the arrivals lounge but there were no "Orchid Garden" buses. The tourist information office there made a call and advised that we were not now staying at the Orchid and should go up to the Royal Brunei office just around the corner; here we were told to wait while they tried to sort out what was going on. After changing their minds a couple of times, we were staying at the Orchid after all and the bus would be along soon. So after 30 minutes of hanging around we were off to the hotel. At reception we were told that out booking had been cancelled at the beginning of January, by Royal Brunei. They made a few calls to the airline and got nowhere and so eventually the manager just said "check them in and I'll sort it out later" - very kind of him. We then asked what time we should get the bus back to the airport and 7:45pm was suggested

We slept soundly for a few hours and then decided to have a quick look at downtown Bandar Seri Begawan and the river. The hotel bus would take us in at 5:15pm and reception said we could easily get a taxi back at 6:30 or so. Downtown must be one of the most boring places in the world (apart from Byron Bay in the rain) but we had a walk around and watched the water taxis zooming between the quay and the villages built on the Ayer River. Then came the hard part - we could not get a taxi, we could not see a taxi, and none of locals had any idea where they might be. After 30 minutes we decided to call the hotel, but the number they give on their room card is an answer machine only. Getting just slightly panicky, I asked a girl in a pharmacy if there were any hotels nearby from where we could call a taxi - "no". She tried to call a taxi but could not get through. Getting just a bit more panicky, she suddenly suggested that her husband could give us a lift for the cost of the petrol, and 20 minutes later just before 7pm we were back at the hotel with a pleasant 45 minutes before the bus left for the airport which I confirmed as soon as we got back to the room. Thank you pharmacy girl and husband

And surely that's the end of the story? But no, there's more. Just as we sat down for a 1/2 hour of relaxation, the phone rang and the news was that we were booked on the 7pm bus and it was waiting for us. Fortunately we only had carry-on bags so a few minutes later we were on the bus, only to then spend an agonising 2 1/2 hours waiting and queueing in what is definitely the most boring airport in the world

So the old saying that "you get what you pay for" proved to be true. In our defence, I should say that when we tried to book a flight back to Australia, it was when the snow and ice had been around for just a bit too long and I'm sure that every Australian in the UK was trying to get out. For 3 days I tried to book on-line with Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Thai, Qantas etc. but every time I selected a flight and went to the payment page, the flight had been sold out. And so to Royal Brunei Airlines (and GBP 660 one-way)...

The most exciting picture I could take in downtown Bandar Seri Begawan



Posted by kforge 18:19 Archived in United Kingdom

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