Airline Review: Cathay Dragon

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Formerly Dragon Air, Cathay Dragon is the Hong Kong based regional younger sister of Cathay Pacific, serving mainland China and other countries in the Asia Pacific area. Flying Cathay Dragon from Hong Kong represented a couple of firsts for us; our first time flying Cathay and our first time flying out of Hong Kong, and despite delays, both were excellent experiences.

Checking in: Boarding Pass’ and Bag Drop

Check-in was without doubt the easiest we’ve ever experienced, anywhere. We arrived 2 hours before the flight, scanned our passports at the automated check-in machines (of which there were a lot, meaning no queues) and headed straight to the baggage drop.

The first thing we noticed about the baggage drop was that despite there being relatively few people checking in, every single desk was staffed. For our flight, this meant around 8 desks were open. As a result, again, there was no queue. We just headed to the desk, showed our boarding passes and Chinese visas, handed over our bags and went on our way.

From leaving the taxis to finding the Cathay Dragon check-in area (H, if you’re interested) and printing our boarding passes to dropping our bags, no more than 15 minutes passed. Most of this was spent walking from area A where our taxi had dropped us as well. And with a 5 year old and a 3 year old who love to get restless in check-in queues and occupy themselves unhooking the ropes and generally getting in people’s way, this was very much appreciated. By the time we reach security I can normally feel my pulse in my temples, today I was actually enjoying myself.

Boarding

Boarding, again, was an easy and relatively stress free experience. The design of the gates at Hong Kong International (as far as I am aware from our experience with Cathay Dragon) allocates seats to waiting business and first class passengers by the business and first class boarding counter and economy class by the economy class boarding counter.

We arrived 5 minutes before boarding having grabbed some lunch and ensured the necessary preparatory bathroom trips for the children had taken place and people were still sitting, waiting to board. 

At 1:20pm, the advertised boarding time, boarding actually began. This is the first time I have ever experienced this. And, after 8 years of travelling from Middle Eastern and Chinese airports, it was a refreshing change to see people queuing without any fuss.

For those travelling with children, I saw no evidence of any kind of priority boarding although I also saw no other people travelling with children so I can’t state that Cathay do not provide this with any confidence. We happened to be by the desk when the boarding announcement was made so we were at the front of the queue anyway.

Onboard

Cathay Dragon are nothing special when it comes to the interior of the plane itself although seat space was reasonable, the plane was clean (it smelled curiously of tangerines, so not unpleasant) and the staff were very friendly. Our plane had its seating in the 2-4-2 configuration as well, which was perfect for our family of 4 and checking in 48 hours prior to flying allowed us to get the exact seats that we wanted.

Dining

It was special requests all round for dinner. I selfishly subscribe to the ‘make a special request and you get your food first’ school of air travel although I also like ordering the more unusual options out of curiousity and because they’re often nicer than what’s on offer otherwise. 

Special requests can be a bit of a mixed bag though. We’ve flown with airlines who have just forgotten the special meals altogether and have had to cobble together something out of what’s left on the trolley. We find that Emirates are also great at giving pre-booked children’s meals to the first children they see when serving and ‘running out’ by the time they get to you.

Cathay Dragon were great in this respect. Before the plane even started to taxi to the run way they came to our seats to confirm our meals and ask what drinks we would like with them. These were then promptly delivered in the air.

Children’s Meal

Pasta with Bolognese, Green Beans, Corn, Potato Salad, Bread Roll, Cherry Sponge, Chocolate ice cream, Orange Juice

Low Calorie Meal

White fish in tomato sauce, carrots, green beans, turkey salad, chocolate ice cream, melon selection, water

Vegetarian Indian Meal

Black bean dal, Aloo Ghobi, Vegetable Bhaji, White rice, paratha, mung bean and cucumber salad, melon selection, chocolate ice cream, water

My only gripe with the in-flight dining is that after eating, the trays were left with passengers for more than 60 minutes. This felt pretty claustrophobic and in a the absence of any turbulence and with everybody having finished, I wasn’t really sure why they weren’t cleared away sooner.
Entertainment

The inflight entertainment with Cathay Dragon is of a good standard. It has a dedicated kids section and lot of new release movies as well as a selection of not-so-recent ones. The selection also includes TV programs and the usual inflight information.

The console itself has a USB port for charging and you can connect an iPod and navigate through the screen itself.

The screen size is reasonable and the headphones provided by the airline are a lot better than many that are offered on other flights

Cathay Dragon flies to 44 destinations at time of writing. Economy baggage allowances is 30kg per person. Check-in online is available 48 hours in advance and seat selection is free. Meals are included. We booked our flights via Skyscanner.net

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