Open skies only a matter of time – Royal Brunei

Deputy chairman joins calls for deregulation

Royal Brunei deputy chairman Dermot Mannion has weighed into the debate over airline deregulation, saying it is “only a matter of time” before the world’s skies are fully open.

Emirates Airline Group chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum this week lashed out at countries that block international airlines' expansion by limiting landing rights at their airports.

Mannion, a former Emirates executive and CEO of Air Lingus, said Royal Brunei had extensive bilateral agreements in place for landing rights.

However, from 2015 it was expecting ASEAN open skies, which would be in addition to intra-European arrangements and open skies between Europe and North Africa.

He said this would only continue.

“The world is moving in the direction is moving in the direction of deregulation,” he told Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow. “The momentum for that is unstoppable and irreversible. It’s really only a matter of time.”

Royal Brunei, a state-owned airline, has been operating to Dubai for about 25 years.

However, Mannion said he believed the entry into service of the 787 Dreamliner would be a “game changer” and could create opportunities to further grow services.

It will be the first airline to operate the Dreamliner on the London-Dubai route when it starts its Brunei-Dubai-London flights on December 1.

It would also use the plane for its Melbourne-Brunei-Dubai route from April 1.

“We’re taking it step by step,” Mannion said. “We feel we’ve got the right aircraft, we feel we’re offering the right product and we think being the first Dreamliner operator to London is going to turn out to be a significant advantage for us.

“Let’s see where we go with that, but certainly we are confident of being able to grow activity in Dubai as a result of this.”

Mannion said the airline had been in consolidation mode, having restructured the business, including withdrawing from three destinations in Australia and New Zealand and cutting staff by 25 percent.

It was focusing on “strategically important routes” - Dubai and London in one direction and Melbourne, Australia, in the other.

It was also focused on expanding its regional network.

“Long-haul has become a very tough business,” Mannion said. “It’s no coincidence that in the same period the Middle East Gulf carriers have grown tremendously on the traditional Kangaroo routes. So, for many airlines in our region long haul has become very, very competitive.”

Mannion said in the short term it was focused on London as its European destination, with passengers able to connect across northern Europe under code-share arrangements with other airlines.

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