Dragonair Rebrands As Cathay Dragon — What Are The Implications?

Dragonair is a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific, which operates a lot of their flights within Asia, especially to mainland China. But the concept is confusing to passengers. Cathay Pacific is a high quality brand, so is Dragonair supposed to be a low cost carrier, or…?

Passengers traveling on Dragonair have access to most of the same facilities as Cathay Pacific passengers. For example, while there’s a terrible Dragonair Lounge at Hong Kong Airport, Dragonair premium passengers can also access Cathay Pacific’s far superior lounges at the airport. So it has never made sense to me why anyone would use Dragonair’s Lounge, or they even bother having such a sub-par product.

Dragonair-G16-Lounge-Hong-Kong-08
Dragonair Business Class Lounge Hong Kong Airport

Cathay-Pacific-The-Bridge-Lounge-15
Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge Hong Kong Airport (which Dragonair passengers can access)

While Dragonair does have an all around lower cost structure, the way it has always been explained to me is that Dragonair resonates more with customers in mainland China, while Cathay Pacific resonates more with foreigners and Hong Kong based passengers.

I’m guessing I’m not the only person who has been confused by the relationship between the two airlines, which probably explains why Dragonair will be rebranded as Cathay Dragon.

As part of this change, Cathay Dragon will be taking on much of Cathay Pacific’s branding and logos, except the color will be red rather than green.

Cathay-Dragon

Here’s a video explaining the rebrand:

The purpose of the rebrand can best be summed up as follows:

To create a seamless brand experience for our passengers, it is important to establish a clear link between our two airlines. By using the Cathay name and iconic brushwing logo, we can show their relationship and premium service in a clear and simple way.

The distinctive red of Dragonair is retained, but with a slightly deeper and richer tone.

I think people don’t realize the degree to which a lot of their services are already aligned. Cathay Pacific and Dragonair already offer the same regional business class seat.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class-26
Cathay Pacific & Dragonair regional business class seat

For entertainment, Cathay Pacific offers StudioCX, while Dragonair offers StudioKA (the airlines’ respective codes). The way they describe the experience between the two airlines is as follows:

Moving between Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific will feel familiar yet fresh across all aspects of the passenger journey.

Both airlines will offer a premium in-flight experience, but each will have its own distinct personality that reflects the specific needs of our passengers. In-flight meals, for example, will continue Dragonair’s tradition of providing the best of Chinese and Hong Kong cuisine.

Cathay Dragon and Cathay Pacific. One seamless brand experience that truly enables a Life Well Travelled.

Cathay Dragon’s new livery will progressively be rolled out starting in April 2016.

Cathay-Dragon-1

Bottom line

Now that Dragonair has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific for almost a decade, it makes perfect sense to try and align the two brands as much as possible. The experience one should expect between Cathay Pacific and Dragonair has always been a bit confusing, and I think this branding clears things up a bit — “hey, you’re flying Cathay Pacific, with a bit of Chinese flair.” And that’s smart.

They did a phenomenal job with the branding here, and I love that it’s almost identical between the two carriers, minus the colors. What a cool distinction to make.

In terms of the customer experience nothing should change. At best this rebranding is a renewed commitment on their part to the cores of their brand, I suppose.

What do you think of Dragonair being rebranded as Cathay Dragon?

Comments

  1. Their idiotic website won’t let me book an award trip all the way from JFK to CTU in China. I have to waste miles to book two trips: JFK-HKG and HKG-CTU. Really stupid.

  2. Politics. When Britain ceded Hong Kong back to China, CX was limited to the routes and flights it already had into the mainland. Beijing was not happy about having a foreign-owned carrier being regarded as China’s national carrier (at the time Air China was a limited player on the global scene) as China Air in Taipei had established in traveller’s minds. However, Swire got around Beijing’s concerns by creating a subsidiary that was found acceptable and thus was able to increase flights to PEK and PVG routes, and add others, but under the DragonAir brand. Rumours are that CA now has a significant minority stake in Cathay Inc., the corporate parent of the two airlines, which was to have been formally announced today but wasn’t. Swire remains in control of Cathay Inc. and there is likely no merger with CA intended. However, this indicates that Beijing now has come to terms with the airline in a way that would allow KA to become more prominent in the mainland as CX retrenches worldwide against competition from the Gulf airlines. Thus a stronger coordinated image between the two carriers, and notice the prominence of the Chinese lettering on the fuselage.

  3. The best airline steak I’ve ever had was on a HKG-PEK Dragon Air flight in F. It was allegedly crafted by a 5* hotel restaurant in Hong Kong. Their short haul F is the same hard product as long haul J on Cathay Pacific. However, the soft product in short haul F on Dragon Air is superior to long haul J on Cathay Pacific. Also, I wouldn’t necessarily say KA is more designed for mainland and CX is more designed for HK and foreigners, as the flight attendants speak English and generally speaking, both a western and Chinese meal option is offered in the premium cabins, like Cathay Pacific. Also, I once shared the F cabin with a very high profile Hong Kong based celebrity.

  4. I had the pleasure of flying Dragon Air a number of times when I was living and working in Singapore. It’s a wonderful carrier with excellent service — no doubt thanks to its relationship with Cathay Pacific. The happy dragon on the tail made me smile each time because, well, who wouldn’t want to fly on a dragon? I’m pleased that the dragon remains on the aircraft, although a smaller version near the aircraft nose.

  5. Chinese people like Dragonair’s logo a lot, but it’s almost gone in the rebrand.

    There are several reports of Mandarin-speaking passengers were treated differently on CX. If you want to have a better experience flying CX, do not speak Mandarin. KA has a better brand in Mainland China. I don’t know how this rebrand will help CX and KA.

  6. “Dragonair’s Lounge…a sub-par product.” – still way better then AA’s Flagship in LAX at least.

    China has taken over so many official titles with “China” as part of the name, away from Taiwan, even created a tag name “Taiwan, China” in all publications and announcements as they can. But one name they cant touch is China Airlines which is owned by Taiwanese company. They had to settle for ‘Air China’, you know Beijing cannot wait to get that name switched.

    I am a Chinese, I fully understand what Lucky says about Dragon/Cathy resonates with its respective customers, mentality, more than the hardware or status.

  7. all my Tiawnese friends hate the name of China Airline to represent the nation’s flag carrier. If China want it, they can have it.

  8. I agree that this is a smart rebranding, especially given the quality of the CX brand. I also completely agree with the point that it should lessen confusion. Last year, when I was considered an Asian trip, I was looking at flights out of HKG. I saw Dragonair pop up several times and I had no idea what it was. I did manage to ascertain it was a Cathay subsidiary but I did assume it was a discounter. Had I seen the name “Cathay Dragon” I would have been far less likely to have dismissed its flights without serious consideration.

  9. I am a Taiwanese. NOT all Taiwanese hate the name of China Airlines. In fact, they are glad that mainland China can’t take the name as their national carrier name. It all depends on their political point of view. So don’t misguide general public on this topic. BTW, politics shouldn’t be discussed on this travel blog site.

  10. For those that are red-green colorblind, it’s a going to be a little more challenging to make a distinction between the two carriers

  11. I thought Dragonair were dry in Asia with no booze offered (according to friends who’ve used them). That’d be a big distinction and enough for me to see red.

  12. Dragonair is by NO means a low-cost or inferior carrier than Cathay Pacific. If anyone had flown KA should notice that the catering is usually much better than the pathetic food on CX’s intra-asia flights. And service usually is more personalised on KA than on CX from my experience.

  13. @Rich – Definitely not dry, at least in business class intra-Asia. Haven’t flown them in coach. In my experience the on-board experience is virtually identical to CX mainline.

  14. @Rich
    Your friend might have been on a breakfast service flight, where CX doesn’t service alcohol either. Dragonair is definitely not a dry airline.

  15. I like the new livery, change is always a good thing in my opinion. Once all planes are repainted, you can always look at a photo if you miss the red snake on the tail! No matter what name they choose it will always be weird for a while (remember when iPad was announced?) but I think it all makes a lot of sense. This (much like the new CX website) is just a skin over the same old thing (i.e. the airline) and there is no reason much will change underneath as a result of the rebrand. People are reading into this too much.

    And yes the G16 lounge is a true mystery! I guess CX don’t have any incentive to invest in renovating it to bring it up to the standard of the other lounges yet don’t want to vacate the space out of fear of loosing it forever. I’d rather see them focus on further improving the other lounges.

  16. The Cathay and Dragon Air regional business-class seats pictured in this post are lousy… not even as good as US carriers’ domestic first class. They are hard, barely recline, and when reclined don’t have enough room for my feet. Its quite a let down after CX first or business class TPAC. On the other hand, CX and KA “regional” a/c configured 1-2-1 in business have very nice seats.

  17. “In-flight meals, for example, will continue Dragonair’s tradition of providing the best of Chinese and Hong Kong cuisine.”

    That’s as nonsensical as saying: “the best of American and South Carolinian cuisine”. Is not South Carolinaian cuisine American cuisine? After 54 years, South Carolina finally woke up from its delusion and removed the confederatino flag from its statehouse grounds.

    I wonder how long it will take Hong Kong. But, the sooner Cathay Pacific’s marketing team wake up from such OXYMORON, the faster they can earn more money from the mainland Chinese, who obviously, are much more sensitive than the average American about such things, given that Hong Kong has united with its motherland for less than 20 years, compared to South Carolina’s separatist activities being water under the bridge.

  18. I would not be surprised if Cathay Pacific eventually absorbs “Cathay Dragon”. There definitely could be cost savings in such a merger.

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