Exit the Dragon: Cathay Pacific axes its Cathay Dragon regional arm

The routes flown by Cathay Dragon will be taken over by Cathay Pacific and HK Express.

By David Flynn, October 21 2020
Exit the Dragon: Cathay Pacific axes its Cathay Dragon regional arm

Cathay Pacific will scrap its Cathay Dragon offshoot "with immediate effect" as part of an extensive cost-saving exercise aimed at ensuring the parent airline's survival as it weathers the global pandemic and "adapts to the new travel reality."

Cathay Dragon serves as the regional arm of Cathay Pacific, flying to a network of some 50 destinations across Asia, with around half of those being in mainland China.

Cathay Dragon runs a fleet of Airbus A320, A320 and A330 jets.
Cathay Dragon runs a fleet of Airbus A320, A320 and A330 jets.

Cathay Pacific Group Chairman Patrick Healy said that while he was sad to see the end of the 35 year old airline, "the reality is that in these difficult times we must focus on a single world-leading premium travel brand in Cathay Pacific, complemented by a single low-cost leisure travel brand in HK Express."

"There are substantial operation and marketing efficiencies to be gained by combining our fleets and simplifying our brand architecture in this way."

What becomes of the Cathay Dragon fleet and network?

Healy said that Cathay Dragon's routes would be split between Cathay Pacific and HK Express, with the group seeking regulatory approval "for a majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes to be operated by Cathay Pacific and HK Express" – indicating that some of Cathay Dragon's routes will be dropped from the overall network.

The Cathay Dragon fleet was set for an expansion with as many as 16 new Airbus A321neo jets – the first two of which are due to arrive in the coming weeks – which will also debut a new regional business class.

Cathay Dragon's regional business class is designed to suit short-range flights across Asia.
Cathay Dragon's regional business class is designed to suit short-range flights across Asia.

The folding of Cathay Dragon into Cathay Pacific has been tipped in recent months, and in some ways would be the inevitable conclusion to a process which over recent years has seen the airline rebranded from Dragonair to Cathay Dragon, adopt an almost-identical livery to Cathay Pacific, and have its own lounges subsumed by the parent airline.

The move would also mirror a similar play by Singapore Airlines to abolish its regional SilkAir brand and bring that airline's operations back under the Singapore Airlines umbrella. This has already begun, with Singapore Airlines livery now adorning some former SilkAir Boeing 737 jets.

Healy also announced that Cathay Pacific has pushed back the delivery of its Boeing 777-9 jets to "beyond 2025", which will also delay the debut of the airline's next-generation first class suites and business class seats.

Read more: Cathay Pacific's Boeing 777-9 deliveries pushed back to "beyond 2025"


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Oh no...

09 Sep 2019

Total posts 7

Awful for those affected by redundancies. The one minor positive aspect for people with QFF points is that Cathay Dragon is not a oneworld airline (think it's a partner), so for things like rtw redemptions you could not use their flights. And Cathay dragon was mostly short and medium haul, so if you wanted to connect I from HK into a major city in China (for example) there were surprisingly few Cathay Pacific branded flights (it was mostly Cathay dragon), and then those flights had limited award availability. 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2482

Cathay Dragon was an affiliate member of Oneworld under its parent Cathay Pacific, in the same way that QantasLink is an affiliate member under Qantas. Affiliates behave much the same as parent airlines when it comes to earning and using points, Oneworld benefits and the like, so any issue with reward seat availability would have only been due to Cathay making limited seats available (but they used to be plentiful on routes like HK-Taipei on both Dragon and CX, when both operated, including when using Qantas Points).

09 Sep 2019

Total posts 7

My apologies, looks like I was wrong. My assumption was that you could not use Cathay Dragon for a QFF RTW redemption (in the same way that you cannot use Jetstar), but actually on the https://www.executivetraveller.com/how-to-fly-round-the-world-using-qantas-frequent-flyer-points page it specifically says that you can use Cathay Dragon.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1426

I suspect they will focus on more on China rather than South Asia. I have used them a few times to Dhaka (the only one world sensible way of getting there) but I suspect no more.

China market is still extremely important to Cathay, which earns 25% or more (if counting transit passengers and passengers to/from Mainland via other means) of its total revenue.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2014

Total posts 35

It's a shame as CX regional service is pretty cr@p compared to what the good ol' Dragonair offered. Food is also far inferior as well.

RIP Dragonair.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 232

I'm going to miss the old Dragon. Used to fly it a lot around Asia, it had a decent product and a really nice cabin crew and vibe. Good news that Cathay Pacific will take over some of the routes, not so good news if you fly on a former Dragon route which is handed over to HK Express. I suppose CX will soon start to detail which routes go to which airline, but not as if we will be flying again any time soon.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jun 2014

Total posts 20

Very sad to hear this.. Flew with Dragon from HK to China many times. Loved the flight frequencies and also the links to the parent airline. Was met at the gate in HK, a couple of times and escorted across the airport to make my connection to Beijing...

so we're seeing some asian LCCs disappear. Nokscoot gone, Cathay Dragon gone, which no means less competition. There were probably too many LCCs in asia anyway. Nokscoot apparently never made dollar 1, in 5 or 6 years, with massive populations served by too many airlines, racing fares to the bottom.

Still think Scoot is a great idea, but not sure why they didn't keep flying the Boeing 772s. Wonder what will happen to the NokScoot B772s, of which there were 7, IIRC.

Sold or leased to a charter outfit, like Omni Int, for peanuts, who already have 3 apparently or will they become freighters or end up in Africa/South America/Eastern Europe ?

The acquisition costs must be so low, you'd think that they would be good aircraft for a start up. Allegiant USA bought dozens of MD80s for a reported US$1m each & didn't need to fly them hard, like airlines do with new,more efficient aircraft. Read a story that Allegiant, didn't bother flying many on most Tuesdays as demand was low, except obviously holiday periods.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1248

Cathay Dragon was not a LCC.

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