Royal eye on air services
By Azlan Othman

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday morning made a surprise visit to Brunei International Airport's terminal, Brunei International Air Cargo Centre (BIACC) and hangar.

The visit took everyone by surprise including hundreds of government officials who at the time of the visit were gathered at the departure lounge for the launch of the airport tourist information centre.

Also taken aback were the entourage who gathered at the airport to bid farewell to the Sarawak Head of State, Datuk Patinggi Abang Hj Muhammad Salahuddin, who was in the country on a three-day visit.

The caring monarch has frequently made unscheduled visits to the airport and other nearby buildings. Between 2003 and 2005, His Majesty made three similar visits.

During the visit, the Brunei ruler enquired about the facilities, workforce, as well as the utilisation of collected revenue to improve the facilities.

Brunei International Airport is in the process of expansion, where a study is being conducted for the master plan of the airport's extension. It was learnt that once Brunei International Airport has been fully expanded, it should be able to handle over five million passengers a year by 2025. By achieving this feat, it is hoped that the airport would be developed into a major and leading regional passenger and transhipment cargo hub.

After touring the departure hall, His Majesty took a closer look at the tourist information centre kiosk, baggage screening machines, as well as the airport's medical and health rooms. The monarch also visited several travel agencies, business premises, eateries and a handicraft shop.

At the BIACC, His Majesty toured several divisions such as customer service and operations. The monarch also asked if the job of going through declaration forms for customs imports/exports was either done manually or computerised.

His Majesty also took a closer look at the storage room for export/import mail and vulnerable items.

Aside from the airport staff, His Majesty also mingled with travellers and their families. One of the touching moments was when His Majesty walked towards a man on a wheelchair who extended his hand to greet the ruler.

Accompanying His Majesty during the visit were the Minister of Communications, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar bin Hj Apong, the Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, Pg Dato Paduka Hj Abu Bakar bin Pengiran Seri Indera Pengiran Hj Ismail, and the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications, Awg Haji Alaihuddin bin Pehin Orang Kaya Digadong Seri Lela Dato Seri Utama Awg Hj Mohd Taha.

Also present were the Director of the Department of Civil Aviation, Pg Hj Abdul Rahman, the Managing Director of Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd, Dr Grahaeme Henderson, the CEO of Royal Brunei Airlines, Ray Sayer, as well as other senior government officials and RBA staff. - Borneo Bulletin (10th July 2008)