Flights to Borneo: the cheapest prices, best airlines and shortest flight times
Most holidaymakers have to change planes on their way to Borneo, as there are only a few non-stop flights to the third-largest island in the world. Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are perfect transfer airports for travellers from Europe, Australia or New Zealand due to their geographical location and the direct connections to Borneo.
For North Americans, the two metropolises are less suitable from a geographical point of view, but due to the lack of other flight connections, they are still often the best options for layovers.
The benefits of a layover in Singapore
There are flights to three destinations in Borneo from Singapore. Several airlines fly daily to Kuching (1 ½ hours‘ flight) and Kota Kinabalu (2 ½ hours‘ flight), namely Malaysia’s national carrier, Malaysia Airlines, the Singapore Airlines subsidiary, Scoot, and the low-cost carrier Air Asia. There are also several weekly flights from Singapore to Miri (2 hours) with either Scoot or Air Asia.
Due to the number of direct flights to Singapore, flying to Borneo with a layover in the city is usually the fastest way to travel. However, these flights are rarely the cheapest.
However, thanks to its many sights, Singapore is an exciting destination if you want to combine your visit to Borneo with a city trip.
A cheaper option: going via Kuala Lumpur
If you’re looking to book reasonably-priced flights rather than looking to reduce your travel time, you’ll often find flights with connections in Kuala Lumpur. There are flights from KL to almost all airports in Borneo. Flights to the larger cities, such as Kuching (1 ¾ hours‘ flight time) or Kota Kinabalu (2 ½ hours‘ flight time), depart almost every hour. Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines offer the most flights. They also provide several flights a day to many smaller cities.
However, there are far fewer direct flights from Europe, Australia and North America to Kuala Lumpur than there are to Singapore. In Europe, flights are currently only available from London, Amsterdam and Istanbul. There are a similar number of flights from Australia, specifically from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. In addition, there is a direct flight to Auckland in New Zealand. Flights via Kuala Lumpur tend to be the cheapest.
Kuala Lumpur is also worth a city break before or after your Borneo trip, but there is not quite as much to discover in Malaysia’s capital as there is in Singapore.
Flying to Borneo from London and the UK
From London Heathrow, you have a huge choice of flights to Borneo. Malaysia Airlines flies non-stop to Kuala Lumpur twice a day, with connecting flights to many Bornean destinations. There are even more flights between LHR and Singapore. The prices are reasonable too: you can fly there and back with Singapore Airlines or Malaysia Airlines for less than 800 GBP (1,000 USD).
Singapore Airlines also has a direct flight from Manchester to Singapore; however, no direct flights to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore are available from any other UK airports. You’ll have to change planes either at Heathrow, one of the other major European airports, or in Istanbul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha, so you will need two layovers to get to Borneo. A round trip costs about 800 GBP (1,000 USD) per person.
At the end of this article, we have compiled some information on the different airlines mentioned and what they offer.
Flights to Borneo from Australia
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide: there are a lot of connections from Australia to Borneo with one stop. Here, too, almost all flights go via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. However, there is one direct flight: Royal Brunei flies from Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei, to Melbourne without a layover several times a week. However, as there are only limited connections from Bandar Seri Begawan to the most exciting areas of Borneo, this is not always the best choice.
The prices are reasonable. Depending on where you want to fly from, it is sometimes possible to get there for less than 700 AUD (500 USD): Scoot, in particular, offers many cheap flights with transfers in Singapore. However, you will also have a longer journey due to the less-than-optimal timing of the connections. A trip with Malaysia Airlines is somewhat more expensive, but because of the number of connecting flights in Kuala Lumpur, the overall flight time will often be shorter. Singapore Airlines is usually the most costly, but has the best in-flight service.
We have compiled a list of the differences between the various airlines which you will find at the end of this article.
Flying to Borneo from North America
From North America, the choice of flights with only one stop is much smaller. The distance to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur is extremely far, and there are very few flights between Borneo and comparatively closer Asian metropolises such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong or other mainland Chinese cities.
As far as we know, no direct flights operate between Kuala Lumpur and North America. From Singapore, however, direct connections are available to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York. The flights are extremely long at around 14 – 18 hours; however, since they are often night flights, you can use the time to get a few hours‘ sleep. Singapore Airlines and United Airlines are the primary carriers for these routes.
If you are travelling from another airport, you usually have two options. Firstly, there are flights to Tokyo and Seoul from many international airports in North America, and a few flights are available from these airports to Kota Kinabalu. However, in most cases, you will have to recheck your luggage and you should therefore plan a sufficiently long layover.
For this reason, we recommend the second option: flying from your closest airport to San Francisco or Los Angeles, from there to Singapore, and from there on to Borneo. That way, you will only spend a few more hours in the plane and only have one more connection, but you will save yourself the longer layover in Seoul or Tokyo.
Differences between the airlines
Due to the huge number of potential connecting flights, you can choose between a wide range of airlines. The names you will come across most often, though, are Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Scoot. We will now focus on these airlines and show you their advantages and disadvantages.
Singapore Airlines (SQ)
Singapore Airlines is one of the highest-rated airlines in the world. In the annual ratings by Skytrax, the industry leader in airline rankings, SQ has been rated among the best for many years. Above all, the airline stands out for its excellent on-board service.
With Singapore Airlines flights, checked baggage is included in the price as a matter of course. Depending on the fare, 25 or even 30 kg is allowed in Economy Class. On flights to and from the USA and Canada, two pieces of luggage weighing a maximum of 23 kg each are permitted. In-flight meals are, of course, also included, what with it being a 5-star airline. Singapore Airlines offers a vast range of in-flight entertainment, with over 1,400 on-demand entertainment options including movies, TV shows, music, games and more.
SQ has a huge route network. In North America, it operates direct flights to New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In Europe, Singapore Airlines offers flights to more than ten destinations including London and Manchester. In the Southwest Pacific region, there are direct flights to Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Cairns, Christchurch, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Malaysia Airlines (MH)
Malaysia’s national carrier also offers good service, but it is inferior to Singapore Airlines in almost every respect. The cheapest long-haul fares include meals but not checked baggage. Make sure you do not choose the Economy Lite fare when booking. The Basic fare includes 20 kg of free luggage, and the Flex fare up to 35 kg. In its long-haul aircraft, the airline offers extensive in-flight entertainment with movies, TV shows and audio on demand.
After the disappearance of MH370 in March 2014 and the shooting down of MH17 at the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war in July 2014, Malaysia Airlines had to reduce its flight network considerably. While several daily flights to Europe used to be offered, today only London remains. In Australia, there are direct flights to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. In New Zealand, Auckland is the only destination served directly. The airline does not offer flights to North America.
Scoot is a low-cost subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. Accordingly, the product is one or two classes lower than the parent company’s. If you do fly with Scoot, you must also be aware that the cheapest fare does not include checked baggage or meals. If you want to take luggage with you and have a meal, drink or snack on board, you will have to choose a more expensive fare. Even then, though, Scoot is usually cheaper than the competition. You will have to provide your own entertainment on board, however, as Scoot does not offer in-flight entertainment.
Scoot also has only a very limited route network. In Europe, flights are offered to Berlin and Athens. In Australia, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Gold Coast are on the flight schedule. Scoot does not fly to North America.
Borneo is far away from Europe, Australia and North America and there are hardly any direct flights, so the journey to Borneo is rather taxing and takes considerable time. However, the 12 – 25-hour journey is definitely worth it for the incredible wildlife and natural highlights waiting to be discovered in Borneo. Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are most suitable as connecting airports. Both cities are also attractive destinations for a city trip to combine with your Borneo round trip.
If you book early and are not put off by a longer flight time, you can usually find a comparatively cheap ticket. The shortest travel times often involve a single layover in Singapore. If there is no Scoot connection from your departure airport, these flights usually cost about 30-50% more than the cheapest connections.
The choice of airline ultimately depends on your personal preferences. If price is important to you, choose Scoot or Malaysia Airlines. Singapore Airlines is the right choice if you value great on-board service. Travellers from Europe can also fly with Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates or Etihad, all of which also offer good service. There are bigger differences between the respective airlines‘ baggage regulations. The cheapest Economy Class fares do not include checked baggage with Scoot and Malaysia, but they do with Singapore Airlines.