Last weekend I traveled to Asia on a brief “mileage jog”. The fare was hard to beat ($450!) and one of my systemwide upgrades cleared at booking for my flight back, so I was pretty excited about the trip. However, the fare was a bit unique in that the outbound leg flew into Hong Kong and the return left from Beijing, leaving me responsible for getting myself to Beijing.
Dragonair (soon to be rebranded as Cathay Dragon) is the regional subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, one of my favorite airlines. Although many people think of Dragonair as a low-cost carrier subsidiary (similar to Scoot’s relationship with Singapore Airlines) they are actually a full-service airline, just not to the standard of Cathay Pacific. I’ve flown Dragonair before in Business class on an A330 and found it to be a perfectly pleasant flight.
I had always been under the impression that Dragonair offered economy, premium economy, and business. Much to my surprise, when I was searching for award flights from Hong Kong to Beijing I found a Dragonair flight offering First Class! I was confused for a bit but after a bit of Googling I found that Dragonair has in fact been offering First Class since early 2014. I couldn’t not book it, so here we go!
Dragonair’s First Class seat is the exact same seat as Cathay Pacific’s newest Business Class seat. You’ll also find these highly acclaimed seats on American’s 777-300ERs in Business Class. Dragonair also shares regional business class and economy seats with Cathay Pacific, so this isn’t unexpected. It is the first case that I’ve found of an airline calling a Business Class seat First Class, but it is a subsidiary and not a mainline operator so it’s perfectly fine for a 3 hour flight.
The cabin decor looks exactly the same as a Cathay Pacific First Class cabin, so it felt oddly familiar yet different.
I was served an amuse bouche and requested some champagne during the boarding process.
As we took off towards China my champagne glass was delightfully refilled and they brought by some macadamia nuts as well.
Keeping in the spirit of “just like Cathay Pacific but not quite” they had a caviar service! But there wasn’t as much caviar in the tin as there would’ve been on a Cathay flight.
After the caviar there was a prawn salad that was absolutely wonderful. Obviously I had to break out the macro lens for some close-up shots.
There was one part of the flight that was just as good as Cathay: the buttery garlic bread!
The main entree was a beef filet with a side of prawn and green beans.
The dessert was a molten chocolate cake. Now, I don’t know much about anything but I know molten chocolate cake. Unfortunately this cake missed the mark a bit: there was no “molten”. It was perfectly good chocolate cake, but I had high hopes after seeing it on the menu. Oh well.
After the meal service, they brought by some warm towels for everyone.
I then set the seat back to get some sleep. Shortly before we started our descent I requested some coffee, which they brought promptly with some chocolates.
I enjoyed my flight in Dragonair’s First Class. The service wasn’t quite as good as Cathay Pacific First, but I didn’t expect it to be. The service, seat, and everything else were on par with Cathay Pacific longhaul Business Class, it’s probably the best comparison. The flight attendants were dutiful, friendly, and prompt and the in-flight entertainment had an extensive collection (it’s just a rebranded version of Cathay Pacific’s StudioCX system).
In business class this would’ve cost me 22,500 AAdvantage miles, First Class cost 32,500 miles. Was it worth the 10,000 mile premium? Probably not for a three hour flight, but I just had to review it for you!
What did you think of the Dragonair First Class review? Have you flown it? What did you think?
Newbie to your blog, and here’s my first comment…mmm….chocolate! I have never flown business or first class, so it would definitely be an experience if I had frequent flyer miles!
Thanks for the comment Julie and I’m glad you stopped by! Step 2 is getting you some frequent flyer miles!
Was surprised to see F on Dragon. Good review.
Saw that you returned through Beijing. We may have just missed, I was there from Saturday to Wednesday on a sort of Mileage run, also ent to the Great Wall. What day did you return, we may have been on the same flight?
Love your sunrise picture in Hong Kong.
Hi Trevor, I came back on Sunday
Actually there’s another example of an airline calling this same biz seat first class – AA on its transcontinental A321’s. AA uses this same seat as business class on its 777-300ERs. As for Dragonair I’m not sure why they bother having a separate first class on a three-hour regional flight but I guess they must find the demand exists.
Thanks Andy for this great review.
Just accompany for a short glimpse on the website of Cathay Dragon..
What you see there is really great: Lots of space both for the Business and the First Class.
With a regional first class of only four abreast and with a great seat pitch the offer is really fine.
And to answer your question: It is worth the higher amount of miles used.
Compare this offer to some of the large European Carriers like Lufthansa. Their regional “Business” Class is just a set of Economy seats (six abreast on A320/321) with the middle seat not sold.
The Dragonair A320/321 fleet has real Business seats.
Therefore this clearly shows the quality orientation of Dragonair.
With this in mind I think that the First Class you reviewed is the optimum which is possible on short-haul routes. I think passengers won’t pay the premium for a 1-1-1 layout.
Thanks again for your review and well done. Both the Chinese Dragon and Andy as reviewer 🙂