Review: Cathay Dragon A330 First Class

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

After a short night at the Hilton Beijing Capital Airport, it was time to fly back to Hong Kong, before continuing to Boston. I’m going to keep this review relatively brief, because I reviewed Cathay Dragon’s A330 first class from Shanghai to Hong Kong in mid-2018.

Booking My Cathay Dragon First Class Flight

The return portion of this trip was booked using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. I redeemed 125,000 miles and paid $141 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges, for the following itinerary:

12/11 KA937 Beijing to Hong Kong departing 7:30AM arriving 11:15AM [First]
12/11 CX812 Hong Kong to Boston departing 6:05PM arriving 8:50PM [First]

The reason I booked through Asia Miles is because nowadays it’s the only program that has access to Cathay Pacific first class award availability last minute. See this post for everything you need to know about redeeming miles for Cathay Pacific first class.

As a reminder, Asia Miles is transfer partners with Amex Membership RewardsCiti ThankYou, and Capital One.

Cathay Dragon First Class A330 Review

I got to the airport at around 5:30AM for my 7:30AM departure to Hong Kong. Cathay Dragon operates out of Terminal 3 at PEK. Upon arriving at the airport I took the train to the international concourse, and then cleared immigration and security, which took nearly 30 minutes.

It sure felt to me like the airport didn’t have heat, because it was freezing in the terminal. I spent a bit of time in the Cathay Pacific Lounge working — I reviewed the lounge back in 2015, and while that’s a long time ago, not a lot has changed, so I won’t be reviewing it again.

The lounge is unremarkable, with bleh furniture and a disappointing food selection. This pales in comparison to Cathay Pacific’s new style lounges.

The flight was scheduled to board at gate E25 at 6:50AM, so I headed there about 15 minutes before that.

Cathay Dragon departure gate in Beijing

The plane was already at the gate, though the crew wasn’t onboard yet.

Cathay Dragon A330 in Beijing

The crew boarded around 7AM, and at 7:10AM boarding started, with first class and oneworld Emerald members being invited to board first.

Cathay Dragon departure gate in Beijing

Cathay Dragon 937
Beijing (PEK) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Wednesday, December 11
Depart: 7:30AM
Arrive: 11:15AM
Duration: 3hr45min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 2A (First Class)

At the forward door I was greeted by the service manager and one of the first class flight attendants, and escorted to my seat. Cathay Dragon has eight first class seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration.

These are reverse herringbone seats, so they’re similar to what you’d find in Cathay Pacific’s long haul business class (Cathay Dragon primarily operates short haul flights, which is why they have different products).

Cathay Dragon A330 first class seat

Cathay Dragon A330 first class seat

The footwell was a decent size, and overall the cabin was well maintained.

Cathay Dragon first class seat A330

There was a console next to the seat with entertainment controllers, a reading light, seat controls, a power outlet, and a small storage compartment with headphones.

Cathay Dragon first class seat controls & storage

Then the tray table swung over from the side of the seat.

Cathay Dragon first class seat tray table

Much like in business class, there were no individual air nozzles at each seat.

Cathay Dragon first class seat overhead console

Waiting at each seat upon boarding was a pillow, and then I was offered a blanket shortly after sitting down. The bedding wasn’t exactly great, but was fine for a fairly short daytime flight.

Cathay Dragon first class pillow & blanket

On this flight five of the eight first class seats were taken — there were three passengers and then two pilots in uniform who were deadheading.

Cathay Dragon first class cabin 

A few minutes after settling in I was offered the menu for the flight (on a cool wooden display, as you’ll find in Cathay Pacific first class).

Cathay Dragon first class menu

I was also offered a pre-departure drink of choice, and ordered a cup of coffee.

Cathay Dragon first class pre-departure drink

Moments later I was offered a warm towel.

Cathay Dragon first class warm towel

At around 7:20AM the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 3hr10min. He said we should be pushing back on time, but that we should expect about 30 minutes on the ground once we started our taxi due to the takeoff queue.

At 7:25AM the door closed, at which point the safety video was screened. Five minutes after that we began our pushback, and five minutes after that we began our taxi.

As we started taxiing the service manager came by to introduce herself, and to take my breakfast order.

Our taxi was faster than predicted, as we were airborne from runway 36R by 7:50AM.

Taxiing out in Beijing

Taking off from Beijing

Beijing Capital Airport is so massive, which is especially evident after takeoff when you see just how high up you are before you’re no longer over the airport.

View after takeoff from Beijing

Look at all of those parked Hainan planes!

View after takeoff from Beijing

View after takeoff from Beijing

The seatbelt sign was turned off about five minutes after takeoff.

View after takeoff from Beijing

A few minutes after that I went to the lavatory, of which there are two at the front of the cabin. As I used it I noticed the door opening (even though it was locked), though I was quick and managed to lock it before the door opened.

Once I was back at my seat the flight attendant came by to apologize profusely. Clearly she was confused — I’m guessing they lock the doors for takeoff, and she assumed it was still locked from that, though that wasn’t the case.

Speaking of the bathrooms, the crew was very professional, but I noticed that repeatedly people came from business class to use the first class lavatory. I guess they can’t necessarily easily see the lavatory from the galley, though usually that’s something that’s strictly enforced on Asian airlines.

In particular, one guy came up to use the first class lavatory five times throughout the flight. I’m not sure if he was sick, or what…

Cathay Dragon A330 lavatory

The meal service began quickly after takeoff. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows (there was no wine list, presumably because it was a morning flight?):

Just 15 minutes after takeoff the tablecloth and starter were brought out. To start I had a tasty fruit plate.

Cathay Dragon first class breakfast

I was also offered either a cranberry muffin, croissant, or chocolate pastry to go along with that.

Cathay Dragon first class breakfast

A few minutes later I was offered cereal or muesli, and I selected the bircher muesli, which was also very good.

Cathay Dragon first class breakfast

For the main course I selected the dim sum. I was delighted to for once see an airline offering dim sum without pork, which is almost unheard of. The dim sum included pan fried vegetable and mushroom bun, beef siu mai, yam and sweet potato dumpling, turnip cake, and cordyceps flower har gow.

Cathay Dragon first class breakfast

The meal was excellent, and completed just over 30 minutes after takeoff (I’m a fast eater). At the conclusion of the meal I was offered a warm towel.

Cathay Dragon first class warm towel

There were two flight attendants working the small first class cabin, and they were attentive and addressed me by name at every interaction. As is often the case on Cathay Pacific at least, the crew stayed out of the cabin, but they always quickly responded to call buttons.

After the meal I had a look at the entertainment selection, and watched a couple of sitcoms. Much like on the previous flight, the selection was good, but the screen was really low definition.

Cathay Dragon entertainment selection

I worked a bit on my laptop, and at around 10:30AM the captain announced that we’d be landing in 30 minutes. Shortly thereafter the crew began preparing the cabin for landing.

Map enroute to Hong Kong

The views on approach to Hong Kong were probably the most beautiful I’ve ever had on approach to the airport.

View approaching Hong Kong

WOW… hello Victoria Harbour!

View approaching Hong Kong

View approaching Hong Kong

We ended up landing in Hong Kong at 10:55AM, and from there had a short five minute taxi to our arrival gate.

Final approach to Hong Kong

Taxiing Hong Kong Airport

I headed towards transit immigration, and then had a nice half day layover before continuing to Boston in the evening.

Cathay Dragon First Class Bottom Line

First class is no doubt unnecessary on such a short flight, though ultimately it’s still significantly better than Cathay Dragon’s regional business class. The breakfast was excellent and service was personalized.

Flying first class over business class cost me nothing extra on this award, since my long haul was in first class. I think the ideal sweet spot here is to book a flight in Cathay Pacific’s long haul business class on the route, as you get virtually the same seat, the service just isn’t quite as attentive.

All around I’m a fan of Cathay Dragon.

  1. Wow, beef, beef, or beef. I guess one could easily eat around it with the dim sum. As one who doesn’t eat red meat but does eat anything else and can *usually* find at least one or two agreeable menu options, I always struggle with whether to pre-order a special meal. My biggest fail was on Avianca/TACA, which had pork, pork, or pork (Ben’s nightmare).

  2. @TimR
    What about San Francisco? Admittedly, not as spectacular as the view in Hong Kong, but it has nice bay and bridge view.

  3. @TimR huh? Tons of flights in/out of NYC have amazing views of the city, and plenty of other cities get great views of the skylines too. Unless I’m reading your comment wrong…

  4. @[email protected]…Sorry, bad grammar on my part. I meant that I have never seen views of HK harbor from the plane despite many flights to and from the US. I wasn’t comparing the city views specifically to US take-off/landing

  5. @TimR

    Fall is the season to visit HK (dry, clear/sunny days, and not too hot). Fall is from October to about mid-December. Nowadays, with the number of visitors from Mainland China reduced greatly, I found HK now even more pleasant because of small to no crowds around malls and tourist spots. (Yes, I was just there last month)

  6. @TimR

    A lot of the NA flights arrive in the wee hours of the morning and some arrive late at night, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get a good view when HK is gorgeous at night as long as there is minimal to no cloud cover or haze!

    You likely landed on one of the 7s which meant no views!

    Moving on, I’m sure Ben would be eager to try out their brand new regional business class on their incoming neos next year which is anticipated to be a revolutionary Y+ product

  7. HKG is A330 heavy. I had to take a bus out to my China eastern flight from Hkg to pvg last summer and going by all those huge A330s towering above us was exciting.

  8. “I guess one could easily eat around it with the dim sum”

    Um, you could do that with the omelette dish as well…

  9. I think no pork in the menu due to swine flu earlier this year…

    I find it almost impossible for non-moslem Chinese in a chinese airlines, they don’t offer pork menu..

  10. Apparently Cathay lounge in HKG have clearly labelled that “we don’t serve Chinese pork”, because of swine fever.

    I guess PEK catering can’t guarantee that their pork is 100% imported… and CX/KA decided to forgo pork for any flights ex-China.

  11. @lucky, mileage requirement does differ had you redeemed J for PEK-HKG. Under the new Asia Miles programme, it would be prorated.

  12. Just experienced a great KA flight, i’ve only flown them now twice, but the crew on this last leg were exceptional. Huge recognition for me as OW Emerald – offered me and my family first choice on food and brought ours out early, lots of extra drink refills, and we were all only in economy. As usual, the purser makes a huge difference and she was no exception. Also a fan of KA

  13. Happy New Year – there are not many Cathay Dragon First flights anymore., As you have noticed, there is a significant difference between Dragon Business and Dragon First (I have only flown their First once on a lunch-time flight); always enjoy your reviews and best wishes in 2020;

    nice photos of Hongkong upon your descent

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