Dragonair is to Cathay Pacific in Asia what Eurowings is to Lufthansa in Europe – it’s the way Cathay competes with the low-cost competition. The airline is part of Oneworld, so unlike SilkAir (which is not part of Star Alliance) but like SA Airlink, which is a Star Alliance affiliate.
Dragonair gets its equipment from old Cathay planes that get a high density retrofit and the staff have lower pay and fewer benefits. However, this is Cathay as it lives and breathes – the reservation system and the whole backend is all CX.
I promptly walked to the Cathay check-in at Terminal 1 and the self check-in machine had no trouble issuing me my boarding pass, though the seat selection wasn’t available.
The Dragonair check-in was deserted. While you normally pay extra for an emergency exit row seat, I got it on a complimentary basis as an exception in an otherwise completely full plane.
Fares to Phnom Penh were $300 or more when I booked; I chose 7,500 Avios instead, though availability fluctuated a lot. It turned out a number of big groups were on the plane – easily 100 people – which might have thrown off the algorithms.
The lounge situation at Hong Kong Airport isn’t great unless you are a top-tier Oneworld elite – which I am not. The Plaza Premium Lounge is a mess and the Cathay Business Class Lounge isn’t my favorite either.
The good news in Hong Kong, though, is that the free airport WiFi is really fast and with a few drinks smuggled out of the lounge and a Big Mac, things looks very well.
Boarding was right on time and the big Chinese tour groups helped the whole terminal to hear the boarding process. My emergency exit row seat indeed had a ton of legroom, but barely any shoulder room, as a fuselage beam was right there.
It felt a bit like that dreaded business class seat I endured on Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Orlando on the 747.
This is the same plane you may have flown with Hawaiian Airlines, as it uses them as its workhorses over the Pacific.
We were forecast to take off just a few minutes past the scheduled departure time of 4PM and so we did, to fit with Hong Kong’s typical reliability.
Dragonair serves food – even at this pre-dinner hour. The food may look edible, but you should only eat it if you are starving; it’s certainly nothing healthy.
However, it came with a signature Häagen-Dazs ice cream.