Flight-Report

Review of Cathay Dragon flight Beijing Hong Kong in Business

Airline Cathay Dragon
Flight KA997
Class Business
Seat 11K
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 03:30
Take-off 27 Dec 15, 03:00
Arrival at 27 Dec 15, 06:30
KA   #11 out of 128 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 56 reviews
dw55
By 3870
Published on 22nd January 2016
This is the fourth leg of my five-segment flight from Los Angeles to Taipei:
1. American Airlines, AA5941, LAX-SFO, First Class - http://flight-report.com/en/report-12916.html
2. Japan Airlines, JL1, SFO-HND, Business Class - http://flight-report.com/en/report-12932.html
3. Japan Airlines, JL25, HND-PEK, Business Class - http://flight-report.com/en/report-12939.html
4. Dragonair, KA997, PEK-HKG, Business Class [This report]
5. Cathay Pacific, CX474, HKG-TPE, Business Class - http://flight-report.com/en/report-12978.html
6. Hong Kong Airlines, HX253, TPE-HKG, Business Class - http://flight-report.com/en/report-12991.html
7. Thai Airways, TG601, HKG-BKK, First Class - http://flight-report.com/en/report-13002.html
8. Thai Airways, TG614, BKK-PEK, First Class - http://flight-report.com/en/report-13015.html
9. Air China, CA887, PEK-LAX, First Class - http://flight-report.com/en/report-13022.html

After landing at Terminal 3 I proceeded to the transfer desk to get my boarding pass for my Dragonair flight to Hong Kong. This was where the problem began. The agent was unable to find my ticket, again. Fortunately I had a hard copy of my itinerary and ticket number. She had to call the check-in counter on landside, but only to find out I NEVER FLEW TO BEIJING (or I never boarded the flight to Beijing, I was still in Tokyo, etc.) They told me to call American Airlines to fix the problem. How on earth did this happen, and how was I supposed to call AA from China? I decided to go to the check-in counter to get this resolved.

Immigration was a breeze since I didn't need a passport to enter China as a Hong Kong resident. After that it was quite a hike to go to landside.

Automated people mover (taken from my previous visit to Beijing). It was a LONG ride - the airport must be humongous.
photo DSC00134

After baggage claim, there was another line for scanning the bags. I wonder what the purpose of the scan was. Finally, the arrival hall (taken from my previous visit).
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I walked back up to the departure hall (taken from my previous visit), only to find out the Dragonair counter had already closed, and wouldn't be open again until 3 hours before departure, which was three hours away. WTH.
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That was the most stressful three hours in my trip. I asked for a WiFi code from the customer service desk, and started to look for help, only to find out the connection was painfully slow and spotty. The worse part - I was in the Great Firewall of China. I tried to send a tweet to AA for help - blocked; call out for help on Facebook - blocked; make a call to the US on the public phone - didn't work. After several attempts, I was able to log on to my reservation on CX's website and confirmed what I heard was true. It said I couldn't check in to my flight to PEK-HKG because I hadn't completed my HND-PEK flight. I knew something was wrong when check-in took so long at HND.

It was late at night. I was hoping to get some rest at the lounge. I walked back and forth to see if the check-in counter was open yet. WhatsApp was the only app I could use to connect to the outside world. I rang up a good friend of mine and asked him to tweet AA on my behalf. A while later, AA replied saying they couldn't do anything. I suspected JAL caused the problem by not properly checking me in at HND. I asked my friend to call JAL's office in the US, but he came across a bad customer representative who was not helpful at all. I ran out of solutions, and was prepared to pick up a fight (for my rights) when it was time to check in.

After all the anxiety, the check-in counter finally opened at 12am. As I expected, there was indeed something wrong with my ticket. The agent had to seek assistance from her supervisor. Thankfully, after 10 minutes or so, everything was straightened out, and Hallelujah, I was all set to go to Taipei!
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Hiking back to airside (taken from my previous visit)
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It was past midnight. Immigration and security check were fast, but one thing that I felt weird about security screening in China was the mandatory pat-down after going through the metal detector. It was a really thorough pat-down, covering almost every inch of my body!

At that time I just wanted to get some snacks and rest at the lounge. The Dragonair and Cathay Pacific Lounge is located on the west wing of Terminal 3, but the boarding gate was at the far end of the east wing. More walk on my already sore feet.

Open air lounge, overhearing noises from constructions next door. The couches were quite uncomfortable.
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Dim sum, cup noodles, snacks and beverages at the snack bar
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I didn't have high expectations for lounge food in China, even at a CX lounge
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Another section of the lounge
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It was about time for boarding. Lounge agent informed me that the flight hadn't even arrived yet, boarding would be late, and I could stay longer. I should have listened to her.

Chinese architectures in Terminal 3
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Japan Airlines Boeing 767 parking overnight
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Cathay Pacific Airbus 330 parking overnight
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Draganair Airbus 321, my flight to HKG
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It was almost 3am. People were anxious to get on the plane.
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What a pleasant surprise! The flight was scheduled to be operated by the old A320 with old business class seats with only 8 recline. I walked in and saw the new business class seats, with much delight.
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From my previous experience, Dragonair flight attendants tend to be less experienced and refined compared to CX. Not on this flight! I was warmly greeted by the purser and his highly professional crew and well taken care of during the flight.
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I was sharing the cabin with only two other passengers, making it look really spacious. The seat itself is very comfortable. It provides a good recline for napping. I was able to nap for a couple of hours on it.
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Delay in PEK means less time for me to enjoy the lounge in HKG :(
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Another pleasant surprise! I was given an amenity kit for this 3-hour red eye flight. It's the same amenity kit as CX.
photo DSC07120

Everything was upgraded along with the equipment change - from seats, to amenity kit, to a three course dinner! I was going to pass dinner and go right to sleep, but I just couldn't resist. Dinner started with a fruit plate.
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Then an entree of seafood fried rice
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Ice-cream and chocolate
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Landed at the remote terminal at HKG, which required a bus ride to the main terminal, eating more of my lounge time :(
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Verdict

Cathay Dragon

8.9/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew9.5
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering8.5

Beijing - PEK

7.5/10
Efficiency7.0
Access9.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness8.0

Hong Kong - HKG

9.5/10
Efficiency9.5
Access9.5
Services9.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

Despite all the drama with ticketing and check-in and the mediocre lounge in Beijing, I was so delighted by the last minute equipment change to the retrofitted A321, which features the new business class. New seats, amenity kit and a three course dinner (which I thought was a bit excessive for a late night flight) came along with it. The crew was very friendly and highly professional and far exceeded my expectations for Dragonair. I'm glad everything turned out so well at the end.

The 3am flight happened to fit my itinerary well. I could see it's convenient for Chinese travelers connecting in HKG to other destinations, or those who just want to save time. It's only three hours long - there's hardly any time for sleeping. It could be quite an ordeal, even traveling in business class.

Information on the route Beijing (PEK) Hong Kong (HKG)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 17 reviews of 4 airlines on the route Beijing (PEK) → Hong Kong (HKG).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Cathay Pacific with 8.4/10.

The average flight time is 3 hours and 40 minutes.

  More information

14 Comments

  • Comment 155591 by
    cpdu91 73 Comments

    Nice red eyes flight !
    The seat looks at least better than what CZ offer on their A320.
    The JAL plane is a B767, not a 737.
    You're right for the CX one, it's an A330.

  • Comment 155602 by
    NGO85 1624 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR on KA!

    I had a hard copy of my itinerary and ticket number
    - This is why you should always travel with hard copy of all your travel documents, you can never be too prepared in this electronic age of failures.

    It was a really thorough pat-down, covering almost every inch of my body!
    - I know! My last two trips through PEK were even by employees of the opposite sex which was very weird for US standards. They make TSA look friendly.

    The CX Lounge at PEK looks way better than the CA Lounge.

    The KA/CX relationship is very weird, I don't understand why they separate the brands since this cabin is stripped straight off the CX regional A330s. The kit is also the CX kit with a KA logo slapped on it. Enough about my rant on CX/KA brand mixing.

    The regional seats on CX (and I guess KA now too) are really comfortable, I had these on my last NGO-HKG/TPE flights (similar length) and found them to be some of the best recliners on the market. For a flight of this length, I would have no problem with this cabin on a narrow-body, but most carriers probably operate wide-bodies on this route (CA for example sends A330s with flat beds). CZ sends A32Xs to CAN, so the KA product is superior to their offering.

    Distribution of an amenity kit is very surprising on this flight. Definitely a nice service gesture.

    For this flight, it's hard to judge the catering since the flight-timing is so weird. Did they call this supper or breakfast on the menu? The fruit plate starter suggests breakfast. The main looks above average for CX standards (I've never flown KA and only seen limited KA reports to compare). Ice cream is the unfortunate standard dessert for intra-Asian J (unfortunate because it is the same dessert served in Y without the metal spoon :( ). I was expecting a single tray service, so to get a coursed meal on this flight given its timing is very interesting.

    This is a brutal redeye, I'm surprised you survived the next day! But it sounds like you really enjoyed your experience with KA.

    PS - Before the vultures come to eat you alive, your aircraft is an A321 not an A320.

  • Comment 155613 by
    indianocean SILVER 6214 Comments

    What a nightmare before your flight!

    First time I see a medium-haul flight departing in the middle of the night.
    When do passengers find time to sleep?

    It is also rare to have an amenity kit aboard Dragonair

    Thank you for sharing

  • Comment 155627 by
    marathon GOLD 9273 Comments

    That snafu at the transfer desk is incomprehensible. How could they lose track of a PAX who boarded a flight ?
    I always carry a printout of my e-ticket; it saved my day a couple times in the past.
    At least your HK ID saved you from worrying about immigration issues in such an unclear situation.
    PEK's Terminal 3 is the second largest airport terminal in the world, so yes, it is a long ride.
    I hate waiting landside (which is seldom comfortable in airports) until ETD-3h or so, especially when there I have access to a lounge airside.
    Thanks for sharing !

    • Comment 333007 by
      dw55 AUTHOR 45 Comments

      PEK may be one of the largest, but still a lot of subtle things to improve on. One of them is seating in departure hall. Something I would not have noticed until I need it. Lounges are another thing.
      And they're planning to build an even larger airport on the other side of Beijing already. That's crazy!

    • Comment 333349 by
      dw55 AUTHOR 45 Comments

      The check-in counter probably closed just a short while before I got there. Things would be much easier if I caught up with them before they closed.
      Being able to enter China freely and speak Mandarin really helped me this time. I've seen clueless foreigners seeking help from clueless agents, and both speak limited English. I could feel their pain already.
      Good that KA was able to override whatever mess AA or JL created and let me board.
      We encourage gluttony here - Thanks, I feel better now :)
      Yes, I was thankful for the great flight experience after all the frustration.

  • Comment 155956 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4730 Comments

    Yikes, this segment starts out with a bit of stress!

    They told me to call American Airlines to fix the problem.
    - Totally ridiculous. Transfer desk agents can be hit or miss on competence. Often they are contract agents that don't work directly for the airline so their knowledge level isn't the best. This is probably once again a result of JL and AA's systems not communicating well. From what I understand, you were able to go to the check-in counter and the issue was resolved with no problems--so yeah, you probably just got an agent that wasn't very knowledgeable.

    Immigration was a breeze since I didn't need a passport to enter China as a Hong Kong resident. After that it was quite a hike to go to landside.
    - That worked out in your favor. I'm not sure it would have been so easy for me to go landside with no Chinese visa, no onward Boearing pass (to meet requirements for 72 hour visa waiver), and only a US and French Passports.

    only to find out the Dragonair counter had already closed, and wouldn't be open again until 3 hours before departure, which was three hours away. WTH.
    - DOH! Being stuck landside with no access to a lounge and nothing to do for hours is the worst!

    AA replied saying they couldn't do anything. I suspected JAL caused the problem by not properly checking me in at HND.
    - AA not able to help...shocking! lol. I honestly don't think JL did anything wrong (except for having a crappy system). If they issued you boarding passes, you were checked in. So check in wasn't the problem. Either JL didn't scan your BP correctly and therefore showed you as not boarded, but I doubt this would happen as passenger counts need to match the manifest. Again, I blame the JL/AA system communication problems. AA's system was not showing the segment as flown yet, despite JL's showing it as flown--just a guess based on previous experience, but it's the most likely scenario.

    I walked in and saw the new business class seats, with much delight.
    - Nice! I had no idea Dragonair was installing the Cathay Regional Business class seats on their fleet. That's great news as these seats are quite comfortable.

    Delay in PEK means less time for me to enjoy the lounge in HKG :(
    - True, but on the bright side you didn't have to pick up your bags as you originally thought.

    I was going to pass dinner and go right to sleep, but I just couldn't resist.
    - Good flight-reporter instincts! Eating when you're not hungry for the sake of the report :-)
    We encourage gluttony here :-P

    After such an awful ground experience, such a nice surprise to get the new cabin and a full meal at such an hour! Almost makes the frustration worth it!

  • Comment 156748 by
    BombieFlyer 93 Comments

    Hello Dw55,

    Thanks for this flight report! I am surprised that KA schedules such a brutal red-eye from PEK to HKG. Even without the delay, it's still quite nasty schedule. Glad that you survived it! If I were you, I would have raised hell at JAL's staff for messing up big time. But then, it seemed that you did the right thing :)

    Regarding your comments about KA's flight attendants, I find it the other way around. I find KA's flight attendants to be warmer and happier than CX's. CX's always seem so stressed out and always in a rush in my experience.

    I am also quite surprised that you received an amenity kit. Perhaps this is due to the timing as I had a 4 1/2 hours flight KA and I didn't get amenity kit.

    Anyway, thanks once again! I look forward to your next adventure!

    • Comment 334288 by
      dw55 AUTHOR 45 Comments

      I was surprised to find this flight too, and it happened to fit my schedule. I probably won't do it again though.
      I guess I don't have enough experience to draw a conclusion. This crew was exceptional nonetheless.
      I think amenity kits are only given on night flights.
      Thanks for reading!

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