This is the ninth in a series of posts documenting my January 2019 trip around the world, which took me to Victoria Falls, Cape Town, Chiang Mai, and Hong Kong. You can read my last post, which covered my flight on Cathay Pacific’s A350 in business class from Cape Town to Hong Kong, here.
Cathay Dragon Flt. 232 Hong Kong to Chiang Mai (HKG-CNX)
Economy, Airbus A320
Sched. Dep. 8:05am Sched. Arr. 10:05am
Actual Dep. 8:13am Actual Arr. 10:18am
My flight from Hong Kong to Chiang Mai was on Cathay Dragon, formerly known as Dragonair. Dragonair started out as a completely separate airline from Cathay, before being bought in 2006. In 2016, Cathay changed the name, and now has essentially converted Cathay Dragon into its regional carrier, shifting nearly all of its short-haul and mid-haul flying to it, except for some business premium routes. The majority of its fleet are A320/321s, though it has a surprising number of A330s given its longest flight is to India. From a customer perspective, in some ways Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon operate like one joint airline, with one website, and nearly all flights having a codeshare between the airlines. Yet there are separate magazines and subtle differences in service. Cathay Dragon is a Oneworld affiliate, and you can book flights on it with most Oneworld partners. I used Iberia Avios points to book my trip, with the outbound in economy, and inbound in business. I don’t remember if this decision was strategic or the result of award availability. The two cabins provided very different experiences, though, and I’ll cover the business class return separately.
As I mentioned in my last post, Chiang Mai was selected largely on the basis of it being one of the few destinations with a morning flight out of HKG that left after my arrival from Cape Town. Even though I was on separate tickets, everyone had told me the 70-minute connection would be fine for a Cathay to Cathay Dragon flight. Thankfully my bag was checked through and I am a fast walker because it was a pretty tight, complicated connection.
I was off my flight from Cape Town at 6:50am, and was immediately welcomed by the cold Hong Kong morning. I proceeded to transfer security, where there was a very long line, with no priority lines other than for those with less than 30-minute connections. There were a ton of folks connecting onward to mainland China from my flight. There were about 75 people on line ahead of me, and only one metal detector and two x-ray belts. All told, it took about fifteen minutes, and then I was in the main terminal.
My flight to Chiang Mai could not possibly have been further away, as it was in the North Satellite Terminal. I walked for what seemed like forever, then down an escalator, then onto a shuttle bus, finally reaching the North Satellite Terminal 20 minutes later, about 10 minutes before scheduled boarding time. Definitely no time to hop in a lounge (there isn’t one in the NST anyway), though I was able to get a coffee at one of the few stands, and changed into a clean shirt in the bathroom as I felt gross.
I asked about a seat change and the agent was able to move me to an aisle seat at the back of the plane. At 7:35am, boarding began with all of coach at once.
The Cathay agent on Twitter had told me the flight was completely full, which is why she couldn’t change my seat. That was inaccurate, as the back of the A320 was almost completely empty. The seats were very thin and super uncomfortable, with close to no legroom. I literally had to spread my legs to fit due to the bulging magazine pocket. I was able to move across the aisle, at least, where the middle seat was also empty, so I had a bit more room.
There was supposedly streaming entertainment available, “Studio KA”, but I couldn’t get it to work on any of my devices. There were outlets between the seats so I got a good charge on. We pushed back at 8:13am and after a long taxi, wheels were up at 8:36am.
About 30 minutes into flight, the meal cart came down the aisle, with a choice of “Chinese dim sum” or scrambled eggs and chicken sausage. I didn’t know what the dim sum would be, so went with the latter. It was terrible, though it looked appealing. The potatoes on the side were inedible, and the eggs and sausage were bland and rubbery. The roll on the tray was good at least, as was the little fruit cup. There were too many little dishes on the tray, and given how small the tray table was, it was difficult to maneuver. There was water on the tray as well, but no other drinks were offered but for a coffee and tea service after dishes were cleared.
I sort of dozed a bit, and we were wheels down at 10:15am local time. At 10:28am, I reached immigration and hoo boy there were long lines, that only got longer. There were very few lanes open, and I had arrived around the same time as an Air Asia flight from Beijing and a Silk Air flight from Singapore. A few minutes later, an Eva flight from Taipei would arrive. I’m not sure why it was so slow moving but it wasn’t a big deal when I finally got to the counter. At around 11:10am, I was out into the arrivals area, where I had arranged through Klook to pick up a Thai sim card. There was an agent waiting, who installed the card for me and set it up.
The arrivals area was a zoo and I could not figure out the taxi situation, which had seemed straightforward when I researched. I ended up paying more than I thought it would be, 250 baht (~$8), and what I thought was a private taxi was actually a shared shuttle (with only one other couple, and I got out first). Around 11:30am, more than an hour after I landed, I was finally en route to my hotel, the Holiday Inn, which I’ll cover in my next post.