Review: Cathay Dragon A321 Business Class Haikou to Hong Kong

Haikou Airport’s non-domestic terminal consists exclusively of bus gates. As is the case with bus gates all around the world, while you get priority bus boarding, it’s essentially a free-for-all when you get to the gate.

At Haikou, Cathay Dragon boards all Marco Polo members, oneworld Elites and Business Class passengers at the same time, which, as usual, consisted of half of the plane.

IMG_9465Cathay Dragon Haikou Airport Bus Gate

We were bussed to our remote stand, where there was a massive crowd waiting to board. After another superficial boarding pass check, we were directed up the airstairs.

Cathay Dragon Flight 693
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Origin: Haikou (HAK) Gate: 102 Dep: 16:30 (17:30)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 503 Arr: 17:20 (18:40)
Duration: 1 h 20 min (1 h 10 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Seat: 17K (Business Class)

We were welcomed by the friendly Senior Purser and the Business Class flight attendants. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good picture of the Business Class cabin as most seats were filled.

On this flight, Economy was heavily oversold, so half of the Business Class cabin consisted of passengers who had been operationally upgraded.

IMG_9467Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Seat 

We’ve talked about Cathay’s regional business class seat many times. While it’s definitely an acceptable product for shorter flights, these seats are slightly disappointing when compared to what several of Cathay Pacific Group’s competitors offer. It’s unfortunate that Cathay Dragon has confirmed that a similar style of seats will be outfitted to the airline’s newly ordered A321neo aircraft.

IMG_9469Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Legroom 

The cabin crew came around the cabin offering a choice between Cathay Dragon’s signature cocktail, orange juice or water as a welcome drink. I chose the orange juice, while my father chose the cocktail. The welcome drinks were served with antiseptic towelettes in lieu of a hot towel. This is something that I’d like to see Cathay Dragon align with Cathay Pacific. These towelettes are, quite frankly, very trashy.

IMG_9473Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Trashy Towelettes

As boarding was wrapping up, a delay of around 1 hour was announced due to weather/flow control issues.

IMG_9470Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Cabin During Delay 

This particular A321 is quite old, and featured Airbus’ old passenger service units, which are a little clunky and antiquated, especially when compared to the latest generation of Airbus cabin design.

IMG_9471Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Passenger Service Unit 

Blankets were passed out, which were standard issue regional Business Class. I wish Cathay would offer something more substantial for shorter hops, like a lightweight duvet as you’ll find in Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy product.

IMG_9535Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Blanket 

Out of boredom, I noticed that there was a pretty big gap between the seat and the side window, which some passengers used to store their bags during the flight.

IMG_9475Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Gap Between Seat and Window

As the delay progressed onwards, the crew came around the cabin with plastic cups of (Evian) water and offered to refill any water bottles.

The friendly Senior Purser also took the time to hand out the menu, which was as follows. Yes. Cathay Dragon serves a full hot meal on a flight that is blocked at 1:20. While it’s impressive, it’s often very challenging for the crew to serve and collect meals before landing.

IMG_9478Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Menu 

Eventually, the door was closed and the safety video was played.

IMG_9479Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Safety Video 

I noticed that there was water vapor coming out of the sidewalls, likely from the air conditioning system on the aircraft. It reminded me a lot of the air conditioning systems that we see in Sam Chui’s reviews of Air Koryo.

IMG_9483Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Air Conditioning

During our delay, a China Southern A320 pulled into the gate next to us, which was a nice distraction while we waited on the ground for takeoff clearance.

IMG_9486China Southern Airlines Airbus A320 Haikou Airport

Eventually, we pushed back around 1 hour late, passing by too many Hainan Airlines aircraft to count.

IMG_9487Haikou Airport Traffic 

Eventually, we took off around 1 hour and 20 minutes after our scheduled time of departure.

IMG_9497Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Takeoff View 

IMG_9501Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Airshow 

We got some nice views of Haikou on our climb.

IMG_9503Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class View of Haikou 

The crew were released shortly into our climb to begin their service, at which the entire Business Class crew literally jumped up and started the service. Throughout this time, the seatbelt sign stayed on for passengers.

IMG_9508Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Cabin After Takeoff 

First, the meal trays were served, which consisted of two empty glasses, cutlery and a starter of fresh fruit. A drinks trolley followed. I ordered a glass of iced Hong Kong-style Milk Tea which is from Tai Hing — a famous Hong Kong restaurant chain.

IMG_9511Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Starters

Shortly after the starters and the drinks were served, a trolley with the entrees was rolled down the aisle. While I like being able to see my meal before eating it, I still think that the presentation of the food itself is pretty trashy. How hard is it to separate the rice and the vegetables/meat instead of just clumping it all together in one bowl-plate.

I opted for the “Thai Red Curry Pork with Coconut Rice and Mixed Vegetables”. While the meal was tasty, the curry was more of a creamy, spicy sauce and the rice was just plain steamed rice, so it didn’t exactly match the menu description. Either way, the dish was tasty and more than enough for an hour-long flight.

IMG_9513Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Main Course 

As the meal was being served, there was a short period of time where the seatbelt sign was off. Shortly afterwards, we encountered more turbulence which ended up getting so bad that the cabin crew had to suspend service after only collecting half of the meal trays.

IMG_9517Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Cabin During Meal Service

Eventually, the turbulence got a little better, and the crew was able to complete the meal service. We were already in the middle of our descent by the time meal trays had been cleared. At this time, the cabin was prepared for landing.

IMG_9521 2Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Cabin During Descent 

Overall, while I was very impressed with the overall meal service concept, a full meal service, especially for such a short sector is incredibly difficult to perform. I think it would be a good idea for management to come up with a meal concept that would be slightly easier for the cabin crew to serve on such a short flight.

I turned on the airshow during our descent.

IMG_9526Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Airshow 

We got a pretty nice view of clouds and Hong Kong during our descent. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

IMG_9530Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class View of Clouds 

IMG_9545Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class View of Hong Kong 

Just as a quick little note, the airshow glitched repeatedly throughout our flight, which was a little bit annoying.

IMG_9546Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Glitching Airshow 

We touched down around one hour and thirty minutes late. Interestingly, Cathay Dragon now asks passengers to lower their window shade while deplaning, presumably to reduce energy usage from the air condition. It’s a nice way to save money, and make passengers feel good that they’ve “helped save the environment”.

IMG_9559Cathay Dragon Airbus A321 Business Class Landing Slideshow 

We parked next to a Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 at the North Satellite Terminal, which is a short bus ride away from the main terminal. While immigration was fast and easy, our bags were delayed due to the bad weather — which meant that ramp operations, including baggage offloading, were suspended.

IMG_9560Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Hong Kong Airport

Bottom Line: Cathay Dragon A321 Business Class

Overall, I was quite impressed with this flight. While the seat itself is nothing special, it’s more than enough for an hour-long hop. While I was impressed with the fact that Cathay offers a full meal on routes as short as this one, it’s definitely a massive challenge for the crew to serve. I was most impressed with how the cabin crew pulled through, despite the odds mounting against them and completed the meal service while being friendly and attentive to customer needs.

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