Review of Cathay Dragon flight Shanghai Hong Kong in Business

Airline Cathay Dragon
Flight KA857
Class Business
Seat 11A
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 03:00
Take-off 26 Nov 15, 07:15
Arrival at 26 Nov 15, 10:15
KA 67 reviews
BombieFlyer
By 2924
Published on 23rd January 2016
Hello everyone!

After being a silent reader of this community for a while, I decided to write my very first flight report that will see me crisscrossing Indonesia and Singapore via Hong Kong. It will be a small battle between oneworld and Skyteam as I will be flying with Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, KLM, Air France, and Garuda Indonesia. I selected these carriers because I would like to obtain Silver tier with Marcopolo Club and Silver tier with Flyingblue program. I know Silver tier is not really beneficial but hey, you have to start somewhere right? I have been a member of both programs for years but I never really pay any attention and put effort into it so I guess this will be the right momentum to have a go. I'll tell you the details later!

This report will cover the first out of eight legs. It will look like this:
1. Nov 26, 2015 KA857 PVG-HKG in J class
2. Nov 26, 2015 KA360 HKG-DPS in J class
3. Nov 29, 2015 KL836 DPS-SIN in Y class
4. Dec 07, 2015 AF254 SIN-CGK in J class
5. Dec 24, 2015 GA204 CGK-JOG in Y class
6. Dec 27, 2015 GA245 SRG-CGK in Y class
7. Dec 30, 2015 CX752 CGK-HKG in J class
8. Dec 30, 2015 CX360 HKG-PVG in J class

Alrighty, shall we begin?

Route: PVG-HKG
Date: November 26, 2015
Flight: KA857
Equipment: A320
Registration: B-HSP
Load: C8/Y150 (100%)
Seat: 11A
Scheduled Time Departure: 07.15AM
Actual Time Departure: 07.10AM
Estimated Time Arrival: 10.15AM
Actual Time Arrival: 10.00AM

Background
In early September, I was informed by my colleague from Immigration team that it is my time to do 'the tax run'. Basically, as a foreigner living and working in mainland China, if you live and work here for more than 5 years, the government will tax all your income regardless of the location you obtain it. So if you have a property in your home country and you rent it out, the rent that your tenant pays to you every month will be taxed. To reset the timer to 0 again, there are two ways, one of it is to be physically outside of Mainland China for one full month.

Initially, I don't really care about this because I am a small peanut, I don't have any income outside mainland China. However, upon further discussion with my colleague from Immigration team and other foreigners who have done so, they all encourage me to do it because it will better for me, just in case the government decides to also check me. So I think about it and I decide to purchase the ticket, arrange the schedule, etc after I return from holiday in Canada and USA (reports for that will come later).

After a wonderful time in Canada and USA, a good friend of mine back when I was a student in the Netherlands invites me to Bali to attend her wedding ceremony. My colleague in Singapore also asks me if I can make a stop in Singapore and work at Singapore office for a week or two. Last but not least, my mom proposes a trip to Yogyakarta and Semarang during Christmas break. Great! My inner avgeek rejoices and I immediately go on shopping spree. I find a reasonable business class ticket with Cathay Pacific and Dragonair (PVG-HKG-DPS and CGK-HKG-PVG). To connect DPS with SIN and CGK, I found a $200 combo with KLM (DPS-SIN) and AF (SIN-CGK). I found $300 combo for me and my mom with GA (CGK-JOG and SRG-CGK). Friends and family thought I am crazy for doing such trips but I enjoy every second of it.

The day of the trip
KA857 is the first flight from CX/KA group that departs PVG for HKG. It is always served by a small A320 or A321. The reason why I choose this flight is to maximize my buffer margin as PVG and other big Chinese airports are extremely prone to delay. I also want to have enough time to experience The Pier. As you can see in the data above, KA lists PVG-HKG flight duration as 3 hours when in reality, it usually only lasts about 1 hour and 50 minutes, 2 hours or 2 hours and 15 minutes with holding before landing at HKG. This is a measure they use to create extra buffer due to delays at PVG.

Anyway, the sun has not even risen when the taxi I order arrives at the lobby. The highway was virtually empty and I arrive at Pudong Terminal 2 in around 35-40 minutes drive only. Normally it will take around 1 hour. I don't use the maglev train because it is not yet open, normally using maglev is my preferred choice of transportation.

When I arrive, Terminal 2 is still quite empty. Normally, Cathay Pacific check-in area is a zoo but due to the early hours, it is empty and I finish check-in formality in 5 minutes. The check-in agent is okay. She is not rude but she is not friendly either. She wishes me a nice flight though so I guess that is a plus.

I really like the departure board because of the myriad of destinations it shows
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Immigration and security check are done in about 20 minutes. I don't take pictures because there are officers everywhere and I don't want to draw unwanted attention from them.

As you can see, Terminal 2 is still devoid of throngs of passengers. Usually the very same spot would be very crowded.
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I went straight to the Cathay Pacific's lounge to get some much needed coffee and breakfast. The lounge dragon looks bored and tired, probably because she just opens the lounge. I am the second guest in the lounge. The lounge has a magazine and newspaper rack next to the entrance but unfortunately everything is in Mandarin, no English press. While the lounge itself is nice and airy, the food and beverage offering is rather meeehh… There are fruit slices, cold sandwiches, muffins, and steamed dumplings. As for drinks, there are tea and coffee, water, soft drinks, etc. Pretty standard! sorry for the blurry pictures, I use my cellphone as I don't feel like taking my camera in and out of its pouch all the time.


In the end, I only take some fruits and a cup of coffee because before I know it, boarding is called.

The gate was D60 so it's the left side of the terminal that most of the time only accommodate narrow body aircraft. I think I saw in the past a B752 and a B763 parked but definitely nothing bigger and longer than those two. When I arrive at the gate, boarding is almost done. In fact, I am one of the last passengers to board as 10 minutes after I board, the Inflight Service Manager asks all ground personnel to leave the aircraft and closes the door. This is good because that means I am not subjected to CX and KA's notorious long line for premium passengers and when I board, there is no more passenger standing and I can just easily put my carry-on and take my window seat.
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When I board the aircraft through the main door, there are two flight attendants standing. One greets me with a smile and brings me to my seat while the other just glances over and continues doing whatever she is doing. Turns out she is the Inflight Service Manager and the one who greets me is the Leading Supervisor.

KA has several versions of A320/A321. Most of its A320/A321 is already refurbished with the new regional business class seats. However, today's not my luck as I get nonrefurbished A320. Business class cabin is arranged in 2-2 configuration over 2 rows. All 8 seats are taken mostly by businessmen (everyone but me is wearing business suits, i'm the only one in jeans).

The ancient seat controls
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Nice pitch though!
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Haven't seen this recliner seats for a while! Cushion is thick and actually it is quite comfortable. I don't mind for a less than two hour flight
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Spring Airlines's A320 is our neighbour
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The leading supervisor comes to me and offers pre-departure beverages, blanket, pillow, headset, and newspapers. I choose banana and kiwi smoothies as my PDB and happy accept blanket and pillow.
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The blanket is the thin regional version and the pillow is very thin and flimsy. The quality of the headset is also very poor.
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After collecting the glasses and a round of manual safety demonstration (yes! manual!!), the aircraft is pushed back 5 minutes early. Pudong airport is not so busy at this hour. Usually it gets super busy around 8.00AM to 12PM (the first wave) where a lot of European and South East Asian carriers arrive and depart again. Early morning traffic is usually dominated by local residents China Eastern Airlines, Spring Airlines, and Juneyao Airlines.

We make a long taxi to runway 34L and during this, I manage to grab a picture of arriving Garuda Indonesia. I know I could have easily chosen to fly a direct non-stop flight with Garuda, but Garuda is always super expensive even in economy class. Maybe because it's the only airlines that connects Shanghai with Jakarta and Denpasar directly?
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The Inflight Service Manager comes by and with a cheat sheet, she greets me Good morning Mr. Bombieflyer, here is your breakfast menu and refreshing tissue in a very stern manner and heavily accented Cantolish (Cantonese English hehehe). She then repeats the same protocol to all other 7 passengers.
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Let's take a look at today's menu! Quite boring and meager offering but I guess for a two-hour flight, this will do to keep my always hungry belly full :)
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So we finally reach the end of runway 34L and no one is using it and the captain performs rolling take off.
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Runway 34L used to be just runway 34 until 34R was opened in April or May 2015. However, as far as I know, runway 34R is only used for landings and not for take-off. In my humble opinion, it does not matter how many runways Pudong has, it will always be jammed and delay prone as long as the PLA controls the airspace.

As soon as we become airborne, the clouds cover the sky all the way to Hong Kong.
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Another look on the cabin before breakfast service starts
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The lovely leading supervisor comes around and brings with her white linen. She places it on my table and my seat mate's. Then she inquires our drink preferences. She offers tea and coffee, different kind of juices, still and sparkling water, and the smoothies. I ask for grapefruit juice, still water, and black coffee.
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The very stern looking ISM comes after with the prearranged tray. On the tray there are two glasses, cutlery, salt and pepper shakers, yogurt, and fresh fruit slices. She does not say anything when she places the trays on my table and my seat mate. I guess she probably sleeps on the wrong side of the bed and wakes up with a big headache lol…
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Leading supervisor comes back again with my drinks and she offers pastries to every passenger. I choose this Danish and it was warm. It is crusty and soft :)
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ISM comes back again with a big tray on her hands. On the tray the entrees are laid out so each passenger can see the offerings and choose one. After two passengers on the first row make their choices, she goes back to the galley to replenish the tray with more entrees. I choose the dim sum and it looks blaaaah and dry but actually it's quite tasty. Plus Ms. ISM gives me chili sauce so it's bearable.
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Meanwhile, the drop down TV plays a movie to entertain us #epicfail ! Seriously, the monitor is so small and place high up and the resolution is so bad it hurts more than slicing a big onion. The movie that is played is Minions!
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The flight attendants clear the tables quite fast and they retreat to the galley. More tea, coffee, water, juices are offered but other than that, there is nothing happening. Most passengers sleep throughout the flight. I go to the lavatory and after that I also join the rest to catch some shut eye.
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When I come out from the lavatory, I notice that the First Officer is waiting in front of the door to use the lavatory. I retreat to my seat and later I notice that the First Officer talks with the flight attendants for a good 15-20 minutes. I believe that is weird because isn't it the global standard to have two people in the cockpit at all times? Especially after Germanwings accident. But I digress.

Anyway, the surrounding is still cloudy and foggy (or smoggy knowing we are still in China) outside. I am not quite sure the route we take, the altitude, the speed, and where we are located at the moment as the drop down monitor plays Minions all the time.

About 30 minutes before scheduled arrival, PIC gives an update about the progress of the flight. We start descend towards HKG and we will be arriving slightly early. The pilot thanks us for flying with Dragonair and with that comes Flight attendants, 30 minutes before arrival. Flight attendants spring into action, open the curtain that divides the cabin, ask everyone to sit upright, you know the drill :)

As we descend towards Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok International Airport, I recognize the approach pattern. We are going to land on runway 7L, typical arrival runway in the morning. Being seated on the port side, usually one will be able to see casino hotels and Macau tower. But today is so smoggy I can barely see it. The good thing is I can see the causeway bay and bridges that will link Zuhai, Macau, and Hong Kong that is currently being built. It will be one long ride across the ocean. Quite a neat engineering marvel, isn't it?


We touch down at 10AM and we make a short taxi to gate N508. This will be the first time I get to see and use the satellite terminal at HKG.



We park next to a bright neon green S7 airlines. I find the livery to be very tacky but at the same time instantly recognizable :)
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Brakes are set, doors are disarmed, jetbridge attached, and the ISM blocks the aisle to prevent economy class passengers from going out before business class passengers. I collect my belongings and I go out of the aircraft. Ms. Leading Supervisor is at the door thanking everyone and bid us adieu!

One last goodbye to B-HSP!
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The satellite terminal looks exactly the same as the main Terminal 1, it's just newer and dare I say feels cleaner? I follow the sign to transfer to Terminal 1 and I find myself inside the bus transfer in less than 3 minutes since deboarding the plane. Very easy and the whole process is neat!

Some pictures I take during the bus transfer to Terminal 1


We are transferred to a location that is just meters away from the immigration check and transfer points for transiting passengers like me. This is super duper convenient! I go to the transfer point security check and go up again to find myself back on departure level of Terminal 1.

With that, I end my very first trip report. Please stay tune for the next installment :) I hope you enjoy this Flight Report and please provide feedback so I know where to improve!
See more

Verdict

Cathay Dragon

5.3/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew7.0
Entertainment/wifi3.0
Meal/catering5.0

Cathay Pacific Lounge

5.5/10
Comfort6.0
Meal/catering6.0
Entertainment/wifi5.0
Services5.0

Shanghai - PVG

5.0/10
Efficiency5.0
Access5.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness5.0

Hong Kong - HKG

7.1/10
Efficiency7.5
Access5.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

What can I say about Dragonair's business class?

I have flown this short haul flight between PVG-HKG numerous times though only in economy class. With that in mind, if I have to compare, I believe the difference between J and Y is not much. The extra attention is nice, early boarding and deboarding is nice, lounge access is nice, but other than that I don't feel bad if I were stuck in Y. Perhaps my feelings are biased due to the old business class seat with no PTV and because it's a morning flight so meal service is also on the lighter side.

Pros:
+ Lounge at PVG is a nice retreat however basic it is
+ Leading supervisor proves that she's loving the job and she is very warm and professional
+ Though old and does not recline much, the seat is comfortable actually. The cushion is thick and hugs you well

Cons:
- Drop down monitor is a joke. Mind as well don't show anything
- ISM is very cold and robotic. Once I see her making an espresso cup while reading a magazine while the leading supervisor is cleaning the cabin after breakfast service
- It's been said many times on Flight Report that Cathay Pacific's and Dragonair's F&B offering is not as good as other airlines' business class. I find this quite true as I experience more CX and KA's business class. In terms of quality and quantity, the meal is passable. It is edible but it's not mind blowing. KA has a bit of an upperhand here though. I believe KA's food is not served by CX catering.

Information on the route Shanghai (PVG) Hong Kong (HKG)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 19 reviews of 3 airlines on the route Shanghai (PVG) → Hong Kong (HKG).


Useful

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

The average flight time is 2 hours and 42 minutes.

  More information

7 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 155814 by
    Numero_2 10029 Comments

    Thanks for sharing and welcome among the Flight Report community !

    To reset the timer to 0 again, there are two ways, one of it is to be physically outside of Mainland China for one full month. -> And what's the second one ?

    The lounges at PVG are awful and this one is no exception.

    The seat design is quite weird : At first I thought it was covered with old and torn blue leather...

    As you say the food onboard CX and KA isn't outstanding at all,in both Y and J classes.

    Well done for your first try !

    • Comment 333170 by
      BombieFlyer AUTHOR 93 Comments

      Hello Numero_2!

      Thanks for your comments.

      The second option is to leave mainland China for 90 days each year. That means you cannot stay more than 270 days in Mainland China. You can do it gradually though, you don't have to do 90 days at once. You can be out for 4 days on business trip this month, next month 1 week of vacation, and so forth. As long as at the end of the year you bank 90 days

      You are right that the lounges at PVG are poor; however, CX lounge at least has better seating and a lot cleaner than for example next door Lounge No. 69 Now that one is downright awful :(

      Please stay tuned for the next report!

  • Comment 155865 by
    dw55 45 Comments

    I just took a KA flight from PEK to HKG that was originally scheduled to operate on this plane. I was fortunate to get an equipment change to a retrofitted one. The old business class is a joke and really needs to go. CX lounge at PEK is of similar standard. I thought it would be better at PVG. I hope your later flights will make it up for you.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 333214 by
      BombieFlyer AUTHOR 93 Comments

      Hi Dw55!

      Thanks for your comments!

      Indeed the plane is quite old and the seats are no longer in line with current standard but I have to tell you, the cushion is very plush it is actually quite comfortable. I think for a two-hour regional flight, I'd rather have this seat than the new fixed shell regional J.

      I am not sure you know about it but actually KA still has a few planes with all economy class configuration. Now that one is even worse!

      Please stay tuned for the next installment :)

  • Comment 155978 by
    marathon GOLD 9855 Comments

    Interesting introduction (and thanks to #2 for prompting the other solution to the tax problem).

    The time of the PLA's blocking most of the airspace and mismanaging what it grudgingly leaves to civilian traffic is unlikely to end soon, alas.

    I believe that there is no industry-wide rule that there should be two people in the cockpit at all times. The idea was indeed floated around in the aftermath of the Germanwing accident, and I think Easyjet applies it. (To be confirmed by serious industry observers)

    I keep an eye on the progress of the HK - Macau/Zhuhai bridge and look forward using it when it opens to traffic. Great pictures from above !

    You have been a studious silent member : this is an excellent first Flight Report. There is not much to improve, apart from taking your camera in and out of the pouch even when you don't feel like it ;)

    Thanks for sharing; I look forward reading the next ones and welcome among the contributors !

    • Comment 333480 by
      BombieFlyer AUTHOR 93 Comments

      Hi Marathon!

      Thank you for your comments. I try to learn from you and other regular Flight reporters to make a good flight report. I am glad you liked it.

      I am too interested to know what will happen after HK-Macau-Zuhai bridge is completed. Will we see an even bigger influx of Mainlanders in HK and Macau or will it be a flop considering the anti corruption campaign is in full swing now.

      I am almost finished with the HKG-DPS leg. Please stay tuned for the next flight report!

  • Comment 156217 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    I guess tax evasion is a good excuse to come out of hiding and write your first report! Thanks for sharing!

    I have always found PVG to be eerily quiet. I don’t know why that is the case, it’s a big airport, but there just never seems to be crowds in it.

    I completely agree, the number of passengers boarding “priority” on CX flights is ridiculous, often close to 25% of the plane.

    This cabin definitely looks old, older than a couple of the MU cabins I’ve been in. However, the pitch does look decent and that’s a key point. Don’t judge a seat by its age, the older they are the more comfortable they are (usually…) PTVs are not-standard on narrow-bodies, I find that only about 50% of the flights I’ve taken regionally have them.

    It’s interesting that KA has inherited the old CX menu design, whereas the new CX menus look terrible. The breakfast looks about on par for CX catering, the dim sum plates I’ve been served on CX look the same. I actually find MU’s catering to be stronger on this route. CX/KA catering is definitely edible, but it’s just food, nothing you’ll remember.

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