Aircraft Type: A330-300
Class: Business Class
Date: November 2017
We are big fans of Cathay Pacific at TheDesignAir, that’s no real secret. We love the carriers ground product, with wealth of stylish lounges and super easy to navigate home base of Hong Kong International Airport, but Cathay Dragon, the now-aligned sister carrier always seemed in the shadow of its international sibling. It was time to give this airline a ride and see what synergies could be found between the two business class products.
On the Ground
On entering Bali’s Denpasar Airport, you are immediately greeted by a wonderful fusion of old and new architecture. Behind the impressive brickwork facade lies a modern terminal that is expansive and spacious.
To the left of the terminal building is Cathay’s check-in area. Both Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon share the same desks and it was great to see the new signage had made it to the airline’s outstations.
The check in was fairly quiet, partly due to the recent Volcanic activity that had sadly kept the visiting tourists away during our trip. This meant checking in at the Business Class counter happened in a mere few minutes, and our boarding passes were given all the way to our final destination, Gatwick.
After collecting the boarding passes we made our way through security, which again was incredibly quick. As we were running a little bit behind schedule, we didn’t manage to visit the lounge, however, passengers are able to access the Premier Lounge in DPS, which is shared amongst quite a few airlines. On passing by, it seemed busy, but a perfect place to relax for a short while before boarding.
The gate was situated next to the main duty free shopping area, so within just a few minutes of checking in we were at the gate where we only waited for 5 minutes before general boarding was announced.
We were pleased to see yet more of the Cathay Dragon signage at play here, with a distinct lane for Business and Marco Polo Club members who gained priority boarding. Boarding commenced early, and we were one of the first to make our way to the aircraft.
Just like in Hong Kong, Cathay Dragon uses two jet bridges, with the first door purely for Business Class passengers. It was a shame to see a Clipart style sign used here, but this was airport signage rather than Cathay’s choice. It was remarkable to notice this after such clean signage and branding throughout the rest of the passenger experience up to this point.
The Cathay Dragon cabin is virtually indistinguishable from Cathay Pacific’s regional Business Class. The seats, arranged in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration, are identical and even on the back wall, there is the same, familiar Cathay artwork.
In fact, at this point, if we hadn’t purposefully got a glance of the livery, there is no way of telling whether you were on a Cathay Pacific plane or Cathay Dragon, but that is completely what the airline has been working hard to create over the past few years. Two carriers with parallels and synergies.
The only true difference during the boarding process could be found in two small but distinguishable details. The cabin crew were wearing a more modern, bolder uniform, which were distinctly black and red. They were noticeably younger than the Cathay Pacific crews we had flown with in the past, however, this could have been just a coincidence. The other difference was in the signature welcome drink, a juice topped with a dried flower.
The drink was delightful, and certainly refreshing after enduring 35 degree humidity through the journey to the airport. The drink was rapidly finished and quickly replaced with something a little more sparkly.
As already mentioned, the seat is no different from Cathay Pacific’s regional business class. They are incredibly comfortable for a long day flight, but being cradle-type, they aren’t that practical for a sleep.
The seats offer a wealth of legroom and the calf support cushion is a lovely touch, found on every seat in the cabin. Our suggestion is if you are travelling together, it doesn’t really matter where you sit, but for those travelling alone, the centre pair of seats is perfect as each offers aisle-access.
The seats were starting to show their age with a few scuffs here and there, but were sturdy in construction, and everything was working perfectly throughout the flight. Situated in the arm rest is a TV controller, and under the arm rest was as a powerpoint, and the easy-to-use seat controls.
These seats offer a nifty tray table design, which sits just below the IFE screen. The table can be filled out and act as a simple drinks tray, or totally unfold and be brought toward the passenger to act as a large dining table.
Between the seats is also a USB charging port and small pockets to hold your mobile phone. Interestingly they don’t fit anything larger than the usual iPhone size gadget, and our iPhone 7 Plus wouldn’t fit, so when charging our devices, we had to leave the device on the arm rest, with the cord cutting across the window passengers egress.
There was ample recline, and certainly enough to get comfortable, and the footwells carved into the seat in front meant for plenty of legroom too.
Considering this was a 4 hour regional flight, the food on offer was pretty good, as we have come to expect of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon. Sadly, the presentation isn’t as impressive as some other carriers, and the likes of Garuda Indonesia have set an incredibly high bar for inflight catering.
That said, the service was impeccable, and shortly after service we were offered a wealth of drinks and some warm nuts while dinner was prepared.
To start, there was a pan seared salmon and scallop dish with a seasonal salad. The salmon was a little tough, but incredibly tasty, and the scallop was insanely good.
There were a choice of dishes for the main course, however, the grilled beef tenderloin which was advertised had been replaced by another dish. We opted for the Indonesian chicken rending with rice cakes.
While the presentation wasn’t super amazing, the taste was incredible, a common comment on Cathay’s dining options.
There was also a sautéed garlic seafood dish with egg fried rice and mixed vegetables that was equally as tasty. During the entire dining service, our drinks were constantly topped up without even asking.
After the main dinner service, Cathay’s signature selection of Häagen-Dazs ice creams was offered, which was the perfect accompaniment to a selection of inflight movies that kept us amused for the rest of the flight.
Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon both share “Studio” their inflight entertainment system which is filled with great movie and TV selections along with music and games.
In the business class cabin, a fairly large and responsive touchscreen makes for easy navigation, although it does mean having to lean forward to control. For those wanting to lie back, there is also the slightly-harder-to-use remote control in the arm rest.
Cathay Dragon also features its own magazine, Silkroad, which has a similar design and editorial treatment to Cathay Pacific’s Discovery but focusses more on Cathay Dragon’s distinct regional route network.
Being a shorter regional flight, there weren’t many extras on offer, such as amenity kits, but the toilets were well stocked with supplies should a passenger need anything. The hand towels, welcome drinks, large noise-cancelling headphones and newspapers on offer were all welcome additions. The pillows were huge, comfortable and the offering of blankets through the flight were also well received for those acclimatising from the tropical heat of Bali.
Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific are virtually indistinguishable now, which is both a blessing and a curse. There is little reason to complain, as the service level is exceptional, and no different to what we have come to expect from Cathay Pacific. The food is very tasty and filling, although presentation could be better, and free-flowing drinks means that all passengers were comfortable throughout the 4 hour flight.
But apart from a uniform and a few other small elements, it would have been nice to see other service touches to act as differentiation between the two carriers. We know that slippers and a tea service are offered on the intra-Chinese routes, but it would have been nice to see this too on the Bali flight. This is small detail however, on what was a faultless flight, and yet another example of why we enjoy flying with Cathay so much.