Global travel agency STA Travel has joined the growing global protest against Brunei’s introduction of the death penalty for gay people, slapping a ban on selling flights on the country’s national airline.
STA Travel says it will no longer work with Royal Brunei Airlines and has stopped selling the carrier’s flights worldwide.
“We categorically don’t support laws that have recently been introduced in Brunei [including on Brunei-registered aircrafts and vessels], which we believe are in direct contravention of basic human rights,” Australian manager Monika Rieker said.
The South-East Asian kingdom of Brunei enacted full sharia on Wednesday, including capital punishment for homosexuals and adulturers. The new law applies to Muslims, non-Muslims and foreigners – even aboard Brunei-registered planes and ships.
STA Travel joins Virgin Australia and a growing array of businesses, politicians and celebrities who have acted in protest at the move.
Among the celebrities to protest are Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres and George Clooney.
Clooney demanded a boycott of exclusive hotels owned by the Sultan Of Brunei, including London’s The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane. Some of the hotels involved have reportedly hidden their social media accounts as the backlash builds.
Tomorrow, the country of #Brunei will start stoning gay people to death. We need to do something now. Please boycott these hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Raise your voices now. Spread the word. Rise up. pic.twitter.com/24KJsemPGH
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 2, 2019
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia said on Wednesday it had severed its staff travel deal with the sultanate’s national carrier.
A Virgin spokeswoman said a separate interline ticketing agreement that allows Royal Brunei to sell seats on Virgin flights had not been changed.
Virgin doesn’t sell seats on the Brunei airline.
STA Travel’s decision came after the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby called for it and Flight Centre to stop selling Royal Brunei Flights. The lobby group also wants the only Australian airport with regular Royal Brunei flights – Melbourne Airport – to no longer accept the carrier’s planes.
Melbourne Airport chief executive Lyell Strambi said he found Brunei’s new laws “extremely confronting” but said aviation access rights were a matter for the federal government. The airport would follow its response.
Travel agency Flight Centre said the company “vehemently opposes” Brunei’s move.
The Australian department of foreign affairs website advises would-be tourists of the new code, warning some offences may result in a penalty of execution.
The revision of Brunei’s penal code expands the crimes that can be punished by death to include rape, extramarital sex for Muslims, robbery, and insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia has raised concerns with the Brunei government over the new penal code.
“We absolutely oppose the death penalty and are committed to the rights of LGBTI people. We will continue to advocate for human rights in the region and beyond,” she tweeted.