KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has welcomed its first batch of visitors from Brunei who came via Royal Brunei Airlines, which is making a return to the state since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
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 7.50pm on Friday.
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 means that tourists not just from Brunei but also from other countries could come to Sabah.
“We are pleased to welcome the return of the Royal Brunei Airlines flight. The return of foreign carriers is a great boost 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 is ready to welcome these visitors and hopes 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, the passengers were gifted with goodie bags which included shopping vouchers, 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.
Its sales vice president passenger, cargo, and charter sales Christina Chua said Kota Kinabalu is 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 the flights, bringing more tourists from Brunei to Sabah,” she said.
She said the flight on Friday was full, 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.