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For the Pokémon of the same name, see Dragonair.

Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Limited, operating as Dragonair, ( ) is an international airline headquartered in Hong Kongmarker, with its corporate headquarters, Dragonair House, and main hub at Hong Kong International Airportmarker. The airline operates a scheduled passenger network to 29 destinations in 11 countries and territories, including codeshares, across the Asia-Pacific region. It has an all Airbus fleet of 30 narrow- and wide-body aircraft, consists of A320, A321 and A330.

Dragonair is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong's flag carrier, Cathay Pacific, and an affiliate member of the Oneworld alliance. The airline was founded in May 1985 by Kuang-Piu Chao, the airline's present honorary chairman. Its maiden flight departed Hong Kong for Kota Kinabalumarker, Malaysiamarker after being granted an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) by the Hong Kong Government in July 1985. In 2008, Dragonair, together with its parent, Cathay Pacific, operated 138,000 flights, carrying nearly 25 million passengers and over 1.6 million tonnes of cargo and mail.


A Dragonair aircraft on the tarmac in Hong Kong

Tough beginning

The airline was established in Hong Kongmarker in May 1985 on the initiative of Kuang-Piu Chao, the airline's present honorary chairman, as a subsidiary of Hong Kong Macau International Investment Co. It started operations in July 1985 with a Boeing 737-200 service from Kai Tak International Airportmarker to Kota Kinabalu International Airport in Malaysiamarker, after receiving an Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) from the Hong Kong Government. The airline commenced services to Phuket, Thailandmarker, as well as six secondary cities in mainland China on regular charter basis in 1986. In January 1987, the airline announced the order of two long-range McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft; however, due to strong opposition by Cathay Pacific, it was not able to gain the scheduled routes it needed to compete effectively. The same year, Dragonair became the first Hong Kong-based airline to join the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Dragonair was the first local competitor for Hong Kong's largest airline, Cathay Pacific, in forty years and since its inception, Cathay Pacific fought vigorously to block the airline's flight-slot applications. After heated hearing before Hong Kong's Air Transport Licensing Authority, the Hong Kong Government adopted a one route-one airline policy, which lasted until 2001. The airline was disadvantaged in that the Hong Kong's financial secretary at the time, Sir John Bembridge, was a former Cathay Pacific chairman.

Mr Stephen Miller, Dragonair's first CEO, said:
Our arrival on the scene was not hailed very enthusiastically by the then Hong Kong government...we got a lot of opposition from Cathay (Pacific).
It was later discovered that Cathay Pacific was concentrating on a boom in travel elsewhere in the 1980s, and left the undeveloped China market to Dragonair. Forced into accepting lesser routes, the young airline focused on the mainland.


In January 1990, Cathay Pacific, Swire Group and CITIC Pacific acquired an 89 percent stake in the airline, with CITIC Pacific holding 38 percent; while the family of the airline's chairman Kuang-Piu Chao reduced their holding from 22 percent to 6 percent, with the remainder held by minor shareholders. The change of ownership saw Cathay Pacific transferring its Beijing and Shanghai routes to Dragonair, along with a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar on a lease basis. The first Airbus A320 joined the the airline's fleet in March 1993 and by December, there were a total of six A320 aircraft. This was followed by the introduction of the Airbus A330 wide-body aircraft into the Dragonair's fleet in July 1995.

A further redistribution of shares took place in April 1996, when China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) purchased 35.86 percent of Dragonair and became the largest shareholder, with Cathay Pacific and Swire retaining 25.50 percent, CITIC Pacific retaining 28.50 percent and the Chao family retaining 5.02 percent. CNAC's holding was further increased to 43 percent when it was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on 17 December 1997. On 5 July 1998, Dragonair Flight 841 from Chongqingmarker was the last scheduled arrival at Kai Tak Airportmarker, landed runway 13 at 15:38 GMT (23:38 Hong Kong time).

In the 1990s, Dragonair was headquartered in the Devon House in Taikoo Place.

Operational expansion

In 2000, the airline commenced an all-cargo service to Shanghai, Europe and the Middle East using a leased Boeing 747-200 freighter and a service to Osaka was added in May 2001. The airline purchased two Boeing 747-300 freighters in 2001 and extended freight operations to Xiamenmarker and Taipeimarker in 2002. The airline's net profits rose 60 percent to HK$540 million in 2002, with cargo operations accounted for 30 percent of revenues; and freight volume increased nearly 50 percent to 20,095 tonnes.

All regular flights were converted to scheduled services in March 2000, with passenger service to Taipei, Bangkokmarker and Tokyomarker commenced in July 2002, November 2003 and April 2004, respectively. Dragonair Cargo continued to see steady growth and the airline began a Hong Kong–Shanghai freight route on behalf of DHL in June 2003 and leased an Airbus A300 freighter to start a cargo service to Nanjingmarker in June 2004. A second daily European loop to Frankfurtmarker and Londonmarker, in addition to Manchestermarker and Amsterdammarker, followed and by mid-2004 the airline had five Boeing 747 freighters and 26 Airbus passenger aircraft. In bitter Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA) hearings in 2004, Cathay Pacific applied to fly to three mainland cities to which Dragonair filed an objection, saying the move would have an effect on its very survival.

A new passenger service to Sydneymarker was scheduled to open in the second half of 2005, along with Manilamarker and Seoulmarker as the other anticipated destinations. The airline also planned services to the United States in 2005, at first with cargo flights. It was the airline's intention to more than double its freighter fleet to nine Boeing 747s by 2008.

Cathay Pacific takeover

By 2005, Cathay Pacific owned 18 percent of the airline, with its parent, Swire Pacific owned 7.71 percent; CNAC owned 43 percent and CITIC Pacific owned 28.5 percent. A Hong Kong newspaper reported that Swire Pacific was in advanced negotiations that would see Cathay Pacific taking over Dragonair. This was dismissed outright by Tony Tyler, then Chief Operating Officer of Cathay Pacific who said "We have no plans to change that structure right now... we are happy with the structure of the shareholding in Dragonair at the moment. " Peter Hilton, transport analyst at CSFB, said Tyler's remarks were a "cut and dried" dismissal of the takeover talk.

On 28 September 2006, Dragonair became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific after completion of a major shareholding realignment involving Cathay Pacific, Air China, CNAC, CITIC Pacific and Swire Pacific. Cathay Pacific claimed that Dragonair will continue to operate as a separate airline within the Cathay Pacific group, maintaining its own Air Operator's Certificate and with the brand unchanged, with 2,976 employees worldwide. However, the airline will be downsized with five percent of the airline staff retrenched or transferred into Cathay Pacific. No Cathay Pacific staff were to be affected by this announcement.

By 2009, services to Bangkok and Tokyo; and the expansion plans to introduce services to Sydney, Seoul and the United States have been cancelled and terminated. In addition, the planned nine-aircraft freight operation has also been elminated, with three Boeing 747-400BCF freighters transferred to its parent fleet while the two remaining parked in Victorville.

Service integration

Dragonair's own loyalty programme, The Elite, that was launched on 12 February 2001, was merged into Cathay Pacific's The Marco Polo Club from 1 January 2007. Existing Elite members were offered similar membership by The Marco Polo Club. On 1 August 2007, the airline opened a joint regional office with Cathay Pacific in Beijing, that featured a dedicated area for the airline and its parent, and joined the Oneworld alliance as an affiliated member on 1 November, which its parent is a founding member. In addition, they opened the first airline-branded arrival lounge, The Arrival, at Hong Kong International Airportmarker on 1 October 2008. The airline's ground handling services subsidiary, Hong Kong International Airport Services Ltd (HIAS), was merged with Hong Kong Airport Services Ltd (HAS) on 1 November 2008 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific on 1 December 2008.

Subsidiaries and associates

Dragonair Major Subsidiaries and Associates ( )
Company Percentage owned
LSG Lufthansa Service Hong Kong Ltd 31.94%
Dah-Chong Hong-Dragonair Airport GSE Service Ltd (DAS) 30%
HAS GSE Solutions Ltd 30%

Hong Kong International Airport Services Ltd

Hong Kong International Airport Services Ltd (HIAS), a former wholly owned subsidiary, provides ground handling services to the airline at Hong Kong International Airportmarker. Their services include airside/landside operations, airport lounge, baggage services, cargo services, ramp services, ticketing & Information, station control and flight operations. On 1 November 2008, HIAS was integrated into Hong Kong Airport Services Ltd (HAS), a joint venture between Dragonair and Cathay Pacific, to become one of the Asia's largest airport services providers. On 1 December 2008, HAS became a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific.


In 2008, Dragonair introduced three new destinations with scheduled services to Bengalurumarker, Hanoimarker and Manilamarker in July, October and December, respectively. In addition, services to Changshamarker, Chengdumarker, Chongqingmarker, Guilinmarker, Kunmingmarker, Nanjingmarker, Phuket, Wuhanmarker and Xianmarker have gained additional frequency; while services to Sendai switched to charter services and Haikoumarker terminated due to soft demand.

In 2009, the airline announced new services to Guangzhoumarker, with a twice-daily service from 14 September. In addition, a new arrangement for services to Dhakamarker and Katmandumarker will be introduced from 1 October, with the two non-stop flights combined into a direct flight. The new direct flight to Kathmandu via Dhaka will be served five times a week, an increase of two flights per week to Kathmandu from the existing thrice-weekly service.



All of Dragonair's aircraft is in white colour with a red dragon on the cowling and on the vertical stabilizer; and the airline's name written in Chinese red lettering and in English black lettering above and below the front passenger windows, respectively. In addition, there is a 30cm Oneworld logo next to the first left door and a Swire Group logo on the aft of the aircraft.

Special livery

On 5 May 2005, Dragonair celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a new Airbus A330-300 (B-HWG) painted in a special livery. The work of art took 14 months to realise, from design tender to completed image. The special livery featured a waterside view with a junk and fishes leaping out of the water at the front of the aircraft; a red dragon spreaded across the fuselage in the daylight; and children playing with traditional chinese lanterns by the waterside of an ancient village on the left side of the aircraft, representing the past. It also featured a waterside view with a Star Ferry at front of the aircraft; and a red dragon spreaded across the fuselage in the Hong Kongmarker night sky, representing the present. Stanley Hui, Dragonair's CEO at the time, described the special livery "embodies the spirit of the Chinese dragons of old – a spirit that aspires to excellence".


Dragonair operates 30 passenger aircraft, eight of which are fitted with three classes of service (First, Business and Economy) and 22 of which are fitted with two classes of service (Business and Economy). The airline has an all Airbus fleet with a mix of narrow- and wide-body aircraft, with an average age of 7.8 years.
Dragonair Passenger Fleet ( )
Aircraft Total Orders Passengers Note
F J Y Total
Airbus A320-200
Airbus A321-200
Airbus A330-300
Selected Airbus A330-300s are fitted with
personal televisions in all cabin classes
Total 30 2

Loyalty programmes

Dragonair shares two loyalty programmes with its parent company, Cathay Pacific: The Marco Polo Club (The Club), a loyalty programme, and Asia Miles, a travel reward programme. Members of The Club are automatically enrolled as Asia Miles members.



Food and beverages served on flights from Hong Kongmarker are provided by LSG Lufthansa Service Hong Kong Ltd, a Dragonair associate. A variety of regional dishes, such as dim sum, Fokkien fried rice, barbecue pork with fried rice and chicken with Thai sweet chilli, is served on flights into Mainland China. However, only beverages will be served in Economy Class for flights between Hong Kong and Changshamarker, Guilinmarker, Haikoumarker and Sanyamarker.

In-flight entertainment

Dragon On Air, Dragonair's in-flight entertainment system, offers up to ten video channels and 16 audio channels in all cabin classes on selected Airbus A330-300 aircraft installed with personal televisions (PTVs). Airbus A330-300s with no PTVs offer First Class passengers a choice of five channels; while Business and Economy Class passengers on Airbus A330-300 and A321-200 aircraft are shown video features on the overhead screen. In addition, the airline provides a range different newspapers and magazines from around the world, including the airline's in-flight magazine Silkroad.

Codeshare agreements

Dragonair has codeshare agreements with the following airlines: Air China, on flights to and from Beijing, Chengdumarker, Chongqingmarker, Dalian and Tianjinmarker; Cathay Pacific, on flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai; China Southern Airlines, on flights to and from Guangzhoumarker between 1–13 September 2009 only; Malaysia Airlines, on flights to and from Kota Kinabalumarker; and Royal Brunei Airlines, on flights to and from Bandar Seri Begawanmarker.


Incidents and accidents


External links

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