Review: Cathay Dragon flight KA433, Kaohsiung to Hong Kong

Ticketing

This was the return leg of a Hong Kong to Kaohsiung fanfare booked a couple of months before travel for $1,124.

At the airport

I took the MRT to the airport, which in Kaohsiung is very convenient, and arrived about one and a quarter hours before the scheduled departure.

The airport was chaotic. The economy class line snaked all the way around the barriers in front of the checkin in row, around the row and well into the next row. I was able to use the Marco Polo checkin, which was fairly quick, but I was surprised at how long the economy queue was. A couple of the day’s Cathay Dragon flights showed as cancelled on the departure screen, so that may have had something to do with it. This was my first time to receive the new Cathay Dragon boarding pass. It is simply a plain white boarding pass, with the information printed on it, like BA does. The paper stock feels like it is the same thickness. I find it less elegant than the former design and without colour cues the key information takes a little bit longer to find.

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Apart from that, the only other reference to the new brand was actually the airport sign (and inflight magazine). The checkin counter, the airline livery, the meal branding and so on all said Dragonair. Cathay has made a big deal about rebranding Dragonair to Cathay Dragon but thus far the execution has not been very impressive.

It was then a breeze through security, which was much faster than it is in Taipei Taoyuan, and onto the lounge, a short walk both from security and the departure gate, which was 23.

Equipment

The plane was operated by an Airbus A330. It had the old clam-style seats. As well as the screen, with the usual good assortment of inflight entertainment, there was a plug socket. It was located behind the tray table, so one would need to have the tray table down to use it.

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Flight

We departed on time at 11.20 a.m. and arrived at gate 47 in Hong Kong at 12.45 p.m., ten minutes ahead of schedule. It was a smooth flight, with some circling once we neared Hong Kong.

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Service

The crew was efficient and quite friendly. Although there were newspapers on the jetbridge, there weren’t any English language ones.

Food and Drink

The meal was a single choice, chicken. The meal was quite imbalanced, as although there was some chicken, it was positively drowned in slices of ginger, and most of what initially looked like chicken in my tray in fact turned out to be piles of ginger. There was no drinks service, although tea and coffee were offered. Again the cutlery given was a spoon and fork – I find the exclusion of a knife baffling.

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Conclusion

After this flight, I was asking myself, if I had no frequent flyer status, what would be the advantage of flying Cathay Dragon versus a low cost carrier (if not on this route, on another one). I do value Cathay Dragon’s good safety record, but beyond that there wasn’t much: the airport checkin was a mess, the meal was poor, the inflight entertainment good but on a short flight its benefit is less. If there was a significant price difference, would these factors swing it in Cathay Dragon’s favour? As Cathay’s service cuts continue to show, the premiumness of its brands is eroding, and passengers may increasingly ask themselves whether Cathay Dragon, or Cathay Pacific for that matter, merit premium prices.

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