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Review: Cathay Dragon A330 Economy Class (FUK-HKG)

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I recently took a quick trip from Hong Kong to Fukuoka during my Christmas break on Cathay Dragon, which was the first time I’ve flown on the airline since it was rebranded from Dragonair. I thought I’d review to cover some of the changes in the passenger experience that have come as part of the rebranding. 

After arriving at Fukuoka Airport, I made my way to the Cathay Dragon check-in counters. As Fukuoka is served by both Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, both airlines share check-in staff. Prior to actually lining up for a counter, passenger bags are screened by airport security personnel. Unfortunately, the airport only allocated one scanner for our flight, which meant that there was a huge line. Thankfully, I was fast-tracked to the front of the queue thanks to my Marco Polo Silver status.

IMG_6858.jpgCathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon Fukuoka Airport Check In 

I was checked in by a customer service agent in Cathay Pacific uniform, who was incredibly friendly and efficient. Shortly afterwards, we were on our way to quite possibly the most pleasant security check experience I’ve had at an airport. Not only was the line short but the staff were also exceedingly polite and helpful – all things that TSA officers are not.

After clearing security, my parents headed off to the duty-free shops while I went to the Lounge Fukuoka, which has undergone a huge renovation since Alvin’s last visit. The lounge itself is absolutely fantastic. The food spread in particular was outstanding, one of the best I’ve had in a contract lounge. While I was going to review the lounge, I can’t seem to find my pictures of the lounge, with the exception of a picture I took for Alvin on Whatsapp.

IMG_6861.jpgLounge Fukuoka Fukuoka Airport 

I headed to our departure gate at the published boarding time – and was greeted by what could best be described as utter chaos. Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon have recently redesigned their boarding process by having distinct lines for First/oneworld Emerald, Business/oneworld Sapphire and Ruby, Premium Economy/Marco Polo Green and Economy passengers. However, that hasn’t exactly done much to alleviate the mess that was boarding a Cathay Pacific flight.

IMG_6862.pngA Clusterf&*ck

The signage for each boarding line was very small, which meant that many passengers simply headed for the first line that they saw. The gate crew did very little to enforce priority boarding and stood there with huge signs without actively checking if passengers were in the right line, which totally defeats the purpose of having priority lines. Additionally, boarding on the flight was delayed by 30 minutes – which went unannounced. Overall a very chaotic and poorly designed boarding process.

Eventually, boarding for Business Class and Elite passengers were called.

Cathay Dragon Flight 381
Wednesday, December 28th, 2016
Origin: Fukuoka (FUK) Gate: 57 Dep: 16:15 (16:20)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 34 Arr: 19:15 (19:10)
Duration: 4 hr (3 hr 50 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 41A (Economy Class)

IMG_6864.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Fukuoka Airport

Our flight was operated by B-HLI, which was still in the old Dragonair livery. The aircraft was previously owned by Cathay Pacific.

IMG_6866.jpgA disappearing brand… 

I was welcomed aboard by the friendly Senior Purser who directed me to my seat, which was in the rear Economy Class cabin.

Cathay Dragon’s Economy cabin is identical to Cathay’s Economy Class cabin. It’s full of blue and looks quite smart and modern. I must say, however, that I prefer the new skyscraper themed seat covers aboard the Airbus A350. Nevertheless, the seats still look quick nice.

IMG_6636.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Cabin (taken on the outbound flight from Hong Kong to Fukuoka)

I was greeted by another cabin crew member as I settled into my seat, who offered to store my coat, which I thought was a very thoughtful gesture.

IMG_6870.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Cabin

Cathay’s Economy Class seat is one of our favourites. The seat is incredibly comfortable, well padded, and smartly designed. My favourite feature of the seat is without a doubt the storage nook underneath the personal television, which is a really convenient place to store any items that one may need throughout the flight.

IMG_6872.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Storage Nook and Television Screen

The seat also offers 32″ of seat pitch, which is quite substantial, although it lags behind some of Cathay’s competitors including Korean Air and Malaysia Airlines who offer 34″ of pitch on all aircraft.

IMG_6873.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Legroom

Cathay Dragon has also updated their “welcome aboard” slideshow as part of their rebranding, which is very similar to Cathay Pacific’s slideshow.

IMG_6645.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Welcome Aboard Slideshow (taken on the outbound flight from Hong Kong to Fukuoka)

Shortly after settling in, the safety video was played, which is perfectly fine. While it’s not overly boring or anything, there’s a lot more that Cathay can do to make it a little more interesting.

IMG_6877.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Safety Video

The sun was just starting to set as we taxied towards the runway, which made for some pretty neat pictures.

IMG_6879.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Sunset View

At this time, the entertainment system was turned on. Interestingly, the entertainment offerings were virtually identical to the shows on my Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Newark.

IMG_6882.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Entertainment Screen

As Fukuoka Airport is relatively small, we made it to the runway in no time and took off without having to wait, which is something that rarely happens today at Hong Kong Airport.

IMG_6894.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class View During Takeoff

As we climbed, a shadow of our aircraft was cast onto the clouds, which made for some really incredible views.

IMG_6903.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class View on Climb

Shortly afterwards, the fasten seatbelt sign was switched off.

IMG_6919.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Cabin After Takeoff

As we reached our cruising altitude, the cabin crew came around the cabin with one meal service. While I’m not exactly an expert on service delivery, I thought the meal service was really disorganised and convoluted. The cabin crew started their service at the back of the cabin, and would make their way to the middle of the cabin – before pushing their carts back into the galleys, and emerging again to finish the meal service. What…?

As is the norm on Cathay Dragon short-haul flights, no menus were distributed, and meal options were recited orally by the cabin crew. On this flight, we were given the option of Japanese seafood rice and a Western dish. I picked the seafood rice, which was served along with a cup of ice cream, as well as soba noodles.

IMG_6930.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Meal 

As part of the rebranding, Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific have largely standardised their service ware, which I assume is a move to cut costs. However, in what I assume is a move to further differentiate the two airlines, brand designers decided to introduce a lotus-pattern-thingy on some elements of Cathay Dragon’s soft product.

Also, it’s worth noting that Cathay Dragon now offers chopsticks along with their meals, which I think really resonates with the whole “contemporary Chinese” thing that the airline is all about. Chopsticks are a really iconic part of Chinese culture, and also the preferred medium of cutlery for many Chinese passengers, allowing the airline to pander to passengers (in case any of you are saying that I’m stereotyping, I’m Chinese myself, so…).

IMG_6932.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Chopsticks

As for the meal itself, it was fantastic. The soba noodles are an incredible new service addition that everyone on the flight seemed to love. The seafood rice main meal was also phenomenal. The fish was cooked perfectly, the prawns were flavorful, and the vegetables well cooked. I also appreciate that Cathay Dragon serves ice cream on their regional flights – something that I think Cathay Pacific should really think about doing.

IMG_6933.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Meal

On a whole, the meal service was great. However, I was a little disappointed that the crew didn’t come around with a drink run before the meal service started. On a recent flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur, the cabin crew came around the cabin offering drinks on a tray, as well as bags of nuts. Given that flights from Hong Kong to Fukuoka and Kuala Lumpur are both around the same length, I don’t see why such a simple little service enhancement can be offered.

I was exhausted after spending an entire day walking through the streets of Fukuoka, I wanted to take a short nap – only to find that they had run out of pillows. The lack of pillows and blankets seems to be a big problem on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights. While I understand that the airline group is in serious financial trouble, I don’t think management will break the bank by investing in more blankets and pillows to enhance the comfort of passengers aboard the aircraft. Come on!

IMG_6949.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class View of Sunset

I guess I’ll squeeze my breakdown of the service here. While I wasn’t expecting much, I was very pleasantly surprised by the cabin crew aboard my flight. While they weren’t the best cabin crew I’ve ever had, they were friendly, attentive and responsive to passenger requests, so colour me happy.

I woke up as the cabin crew came through the cabin for their landing preparations.

IMG_6966.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Cabin During Descent

As soon as we touched down, an updated landing slideshow was played, which featured the new Cathay Dragon branding.

IMG_6970.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Slideshow

As soon as we reached our gate, a hoard of travellers stood up and started pushing forward to get off the plane as fast as possible. Seriously…?

IMG_6982.jpgCathay Dragon Airbus A330-300 Economy Class Cabin After Landing

Immigration was a breeze as usual, and I headed on my way back home.

Bottom Line

Overall, my flight with Cathay Dragon was pleasant, although perfectly forgettable. The seat was fantastic, the food was great, and the service was friendly and responsive. While I don’t think the brand new Cathay Dragon brand has done much to influence the passenger experience greatly, I also think the new brand makes the airline much more visible to an international community, which has allowed the airline to gain more brand recognition, which is ultimately a good thing.

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