Cathay Dragon A330 First Class In 10 Pictures

Hello from Hong Kong! After flying Ukraine International Airlines to Europe and Vietnam Airlines to Asia, my next segment this weekend was from Shanghai to Hong Kong in Cathay Dragon’s A330 first class. Cathay Dragon is a Cathay Pacific subsidiary that operates many of their intra-Asia routes, especially to/from mainland China.

This flight was mostly a “check the box” flight for me, because Cathay Dragon has an international first class cabin, and prior to this flight they were only one of three airlines I hadn’t flown in first class. Since I’m hoping to fly every airline in international first class by this summer, this was a good opportunity to knock that out.

Only a few Cathay Dragon’s A330s have a first class cabin, and they fly them primarily to Beijing, though they also occasionally operate them to Shanghai. I was on one of those Shanghai frequencies.

The entire Cathay Dragon experience was fascinating, because it was so similar to Cathay Pacific, yet also different. The Cathay Dragon business class cabin consisted of the same regional business class seats that Cathay Pacific has, which are fine for short flights, but which I’d avoid for longer flights and redeyes.

Meanwhile Cathay Dragon’s first class cabin consists of eight reverse herringbone seats, which are identical to Cathay Pacific’s longhaul business class seats (minus the finishes). It might seem cheap of them to install business class seats as first class seats, but when you consider that they operate at most three hour flights…

What really blew me away on this short two hour flight was the service. Before takeoff I was offered a drink of choice plus a canapé, consisting of veggies and salmon. Ironically the pre-departure canapé has been eliminated in Cathay Pacific first class. In first class, Cathay Dragon serves the respectable Taittinger Brut Millesime 2008.

For the meal service there was a choice between a Western menu and an Asian menu, and I mixed and matched from the two. To start I had daikon wrapped shrimp with rosemary ginger sauce, which was excellent.

Next up was borsch, which I wasn’t expecting to be very good, but it pleasantly surprised me.

I then switched over to the Asian menu, where I had wok fried diced beef fillet with wild mushroom and black pepper sauce, and stuffed scallop with prawn mousse, gong bao sauce, asparagus, and peppers. YUM!

For dessert I had Chinese pudding (coconut milk, red bean, and osmanthus).

To finish off the meal I was offered a warm towel and a box of chocolates, like on Cathay Pacific.

The crew was friendly, attentive, and professional. The only downside to the flight was that the service was so elaborate that I barely had the opportunity to recline my seat.

Cathay Dragon planes don’t have wifi, though the entertainment selection was the same as on Cathay Pacific. Rather than calling it “StudioCX” they call it “StudioKA,” though. The selection of movies and TV shows was extensive, though the monitor itself was extremely low resolution.

Cathay Dragon really exceeded my expectations. I was expecting this would feel like a second rate Cathay Pacific, but in reality I found an experience that felt every bit as high quality. I’d fly them again in a heartbeat, though their first class is only available on a very limited number of flights.

Their business class just consists of regional seats which I generally avoid, given how many longhaul aircraft with flat beds are operated within Asia, even on the shortest flights.

If you’ve flown Cathay Dragon, what was your experience like?


  1. Any chances of them coming to the United States? Anyways,the cabin reminds me of SriLankan’s Business Class where they have the similar wooden touches on their A333…

  2. Only 2 left! I’m really looking forward to the Oman Air review when you get that far , Lucky!

  3. @ Shihari — Highly unlikely, partly due to their fleet, and partly because they’re a Cathay Pacific subsidiary with a specific purpose. Flying to the US wouldn’t fit into their strategy.

  4. Cathay Dragon is better than Cathay for me. The crew are usually friendlier and more consistent.

  5. Like Kyros, i preferred KA over CX on my flights between PVG and HKG during my time based in SH (until 2015)

    As we didn’t get biz class for under 8 hours, had most of the travel in economy, where they served Haagen Dazs ice cream and i liked my AVML special meals on KA over CX.

  6. Lol, what is this with subpar Eastern European dishes in First Class.
    First it was Chicken Kiev on BA, and now Borsch on Cathay Dragon.
    Borsch can me made quite delicious, but it’s a basic canteen dish and way far from a FC dish, at least in my opinion.

  7. KA actually flies a nearly 5h route between CCU & HK with possibly one of the most outdated planes and lowest quality service. Definitely wouldn’t go out of my way to fly them.

  8. Took them from HKG to PEK a couple of years ago in F – considering its a 3h short haul flight, it was probably the best short haul experience I’ve ever had and its probably the only regional airline that serves caviar.

  9. Lucky,

    Just FYG, Cathay Dragon operate a number of routes longer than 3 hours, some 5 hrs or longer including Bangalore, Dhaka, Sendai, and as I recall one of the daily frequencies (in addition to the Cathay Pacific flight) to Bali. Not sure if F available on all those routes but they def use A330s on some of them.

  10. @ Kerry — Thanks. Sorry if it wasn’t clear, but I meant that first class/those seats aren’t offered on flights of over three hours, as far as I know.

  11. @Ivan – to be fair, looking at the picture I’m pretty sure it’s Hong Kong style Russian “borscht” which isn’t quite borscht as Americans and Europeans think of it. It’s a tomato based soup and really a big staple at Hong Kong style cafes (cha chaan tengs). Oddly enough, what is generally cha chaan teng (basically an HK version of a diner now) food seems to be exclusively served on KA and CX premium cabins. For example, HK milk tea is only available in first and business, but not economy.

  12. As others have noted, I have found KA service to be better than CX in many ways. But it has to be said the regional business class seats on both airlines are awful – far worse than the old-fashioned recliners they replaced in my view. There is just no comfortable position, and the reclined position is raised in a way that conflicts with the table tray and makes one feel like sitting on an elevated platform. It’s one of those “what were they thinking” errors, not a first for CX (considering the business class “coffin” debacle of a decade ago) but one which they seem to be in no hurry to rectify.

  13. I have to agree with OT: when faced with a regional business class seat, I’d rather a premium economy seat.

    Cathay Dragon tends to have younger and more enthusiastic cabin crews as well. They fully understand that they need to make a difference to stand out or be totally consumed into CX and be relegated to the back of the plane.

  14. I was asked if I wanted to bump onto KA from Taipei to HKG, albeit in economy, and was really impressed. I was also expecting second-rate Cathay, and instead the experience was easily equal if not better for such a short flight.

  15. Good insights – I have also been lucky enough to savour a pleasant flight in Cathay Dragon First; similar yet different from Cathay Pacific; I was also impressed at the quality of the vino and champagne on Dragon:)

  16. @Lucky
    Constructive feedback: I hate seeing all the comments pointing out grammar/spelling mistakes, maybe try to get a Chrome plug-in that checks your spelling/grammar?

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