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Virgin Australia drops Brunei airline after country passed anti-LGBTI laws

Virgin Australia drops Brunei airline after country passed anti-LGBTI laws

A photo of a Virgin Australia plane taking flight

Virgin Australia ended a deal with Royal Brunei Airlines over the country’s passing of laws that see LGBTI people stoned.

Brunei, a tiny nation on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia, introduced just this week the death penalty for queer sex.

Enforced on locals, tourists, and even those who are travelling on a Brunei-registered aircraft.

Last month, Gay Star News broke the news that Brunei was quietly rushing to implement the Sharia Penal Code by 3 April.

In light of this, airline Virgin Australia announced today (4 April) it has severed a staff deal with the Sultan of Brunei’s international carrier, The Guardian reported.  

This comes just a day after London train network TfL dropped the airline’s campaign from its stations.

What happened?

Virgin Australia had scored a deal for their staff with Royal Brunei. It allowed staff to book discounted tickets on Royal Brunei flights for leisure travel.

But as Brunei enforces a strict interpretation of the Sharia penal code, the Australian arm of Richard Branson’s airline cut the deal.

An email sent to employees announced the severing.

It stated: ‘Given the harsh (including death) penalties being introduced for activity that is legal and acceptable in Australia, the myID [staff travel] agreement between Virgin Australia and Royal Brunei has now been terminated effective immediately.’

Will other airlines follow suit?

Nobody can be sure, but Virgin Australia were not the only airline to offer a staff deal with Royal Brunei.

Fellow Australian airline Qantas, too, has a staff deal with the Sultan-owned flight company.

Gay Star News reached out to them to enquire if they have plans to cut ties with Royal Brunei.

Background of Brunei

Rulers of Brunei have long enforced strictly traditional interpretations of Islamic teachings. The country, in Southeast Asia, operates under an absolute monarchy.

In other words, the head of state, the Sultan of Brunei, is also head of government. Royalty and lawmaking are one the same.

For example, under the current 51-year-long monarch Hassanal Bolkiah, the country banned alcohol and forbade the proliferation of non-Islamic faiths.

Sharia Penal Code: In three stages

Back in 2014, Bolkiah announced the Brunei governmental bloc would implement the Sharia Penal Code in three stages.

The first stage of legal reforms was no struggle to lawmakers, but its second and third stages experienced holdups.

However, the Bruneian Attorney General’s Chambers website officially posted plans to fast-track implementation of the SPC on 29 December 2018.

Global outcry and condemnation followed, with high-profile celebrities – from George Clooney to Elton John – have spoken bluntly of their decisions to boycott all Brunei-owned hotel businesses.

See also

Gay members of Congress urge Obama to drop Brunei and Malaysia from trade deal

Boycott over Brunei’s Sharia law costs Beverly Hills Hotel US$1.5 million in cancellations

In fear for their lives: The hidden LGBTI community of Brunei