KOTA KINABALU: Sabah welcomed its first batch of visitors from Brunei who came via the Royal Brunei Airlines on Friday (May 6) night.
The Royal Brunei Airlines Flight BI 825 carrying 150 passengers was greeted with a water cannon salute shortly after touching down at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport at about 7.50pm.
State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai who was present to welcome the visitors, said the return of Royal Brunei Airlines here has now made it accessible for tourists not just from Brunei but also from other countries to get to Sabah.
“We are pleased to welcome the return of the Royal Brunei Airlines flight. The return of foreign carriers is a great indication for the tourism and economy of Sabah,” he said.
“The connectivity from Brunei will help with transiting international passengers, especially from routes that were previously in service from Australia, the United Kingdom, the Middle East and Japan,” he said.
Joniston, who is also Sabah Tourism Board chairman, said the state was ready to accommodate tourists, and hoped that more foreign airlines would begin direct flights to Kota Kinabalu.
“With more direct flights from cities across the Asean region, we can expect an increase in visitors,” he said.
Earlier, passengers were also gifted with a goodie bag, which included shopping vouchers upon touchdown, courtesy of the Sabah Tourism Board.
Royal Brunei Airlines is the second foreign airline to resume direct flights to Kota Kinabalu, following Singapore’s low-cost carrier Scoot.
Royal Brunei Airlines sales vice-president (passenger, cargo, and charter sales) Christina Chua said Kota Kinabalu was an important destination for the airline company and that they hope to increase the frequency of flights in the near future.
“At the moment, we are flying to Kota Kinabalu two times a week. We plan to increase flight, bringing more tourists from Brunei to Sabah,” she said, adding it was a full flight on Friday, indicating Bruneians’ eagerness to travel.
Currently, Royal Brunei Airlines operates a 40-minute flight between Bandar Seri Begawan and Kota Kinabalu every Friday and Sunday.