The Cathay Dragon Economy Class from Beijing to Hong Kong during the COVID-2019 outbreak flight experience

Me at airplane

Abstract

 It is my report from flight Cathay Dragon KA993 from Beijing to Hong Kong. It is not a review because flight took place on 17.02’2020 during a COVID-19 virus outbreak. 

Bullet points if you don’t bother to read

  • It super fast flight. We arrived 53 minutes ahead of schedule! The flight takes typically 3 hour 50 minutes. Our one took 3 hours.
  • This flight has a modified service.
  • It was around 30 passengers on the airplane where are 280 seats available.
  • The staff was friendly, but they hide from passengers to reduce the risk of infection.

INTRODUCTION

I usually wrote about my experience in review style. While this article will be written in the same way, I would like a highlight that this flight was in unique circumstances.

Please do not use it to judge airline or their service on this occasion.

STORYTIME 

I usually fly from Bejing to London with a direct flight. The BA suspended flights to/from mainland China. My only option was to rebook indirect flight with 1 stop. After just 45 minutes of chat with a helpful lady from BA’s customer service. I swap 11 hours of direct flight in premium economy with 18 hours flight via Hong Kong in economy class with my wife and almost three years old son. This report covers the first leg of the journey. I am planning to write an article about how looks my experience of going back to the UK from China during a virus outbreak.

ABOUT FLIGHT, AIRLANE AND AIRPLANE

It was a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong with Cathay Dragon operated it. It is my first where I flew with them, and I never heard about them before. I learnt that they were known as Dragonair and rebranded as Cathay Dragon when they become part of Cathay Pacific. The Cathay Pacific has very good reputation, so I was optimistic.

Our airplane was an Airbus 330-300. It is A33R version. This configuration has 280 seats (as it is the only configuration with 8 first-class and 42 business class).     

Our airplane registration was B-HYJ. It is 17 years old. This particular airplane is used exclusive only flying between mainland China (Beijing and Shanghai) and Hong Kong at the moment. 

CHECK-IN

We needed to wait 1.5 hours because check-in is open 3 hours before and we arrived quicker than expected due to much smoother trip that expected. 

This board was quick and without endless fight for space in overhead lockers.

The check-in takes much longer than usual. It looks like they had many extra things to check (they go through some things on their spreadsheet).In the email the was warning about it.

BOARDING

Our aircraft

The boarding was lighting fast. Its finish in … maybe 5 minutes?

Typically boarding finish around 18.20 (officially). This one finished before 6 o’clock. 

THE FLIGHT

We were seat on the front, but I needed to change seat as my had problem with recline. I swap with another one (as it turns out, it had a problem with recline too 🙂 ). Before we took off , we had our safety instruction was played without usual staff dance. Well, they appear to shows, where are emergency exit. After taking off, we were informed that service is modified, but we didn’t explain what they meant. I expected that it would be a similar experience to flight similar to what you can experience on the flight from Israel and Jordan where seat belt on all the time and staff never left the galley with no food or drink provided. It turns out I was wrong but more about service, food, and drink later.

Flying oven Wuhan

The flight was quite uneventful, but we flew above Wuhan and Hubei. I wonder, is this count as I visited this place or not? Funny enough our later flight with BA from HK to London fly over Wuhan too.

I never experienced a sauna on the airplane, but this flight gave me this opportunity. It was the hottest airplane I ever been. According to Garmin Tempe (Wireless temperature sensor) temperature was between 27.5 and 31 degrees. I was about to joke about it but I will not in this instance. I wanted to buy airplane model as souvenir, but you guess right, shopping from the catalogue was suspended for this flight.

Our flight was lighting fast, and we landed 50 minutes earlier at Hong Kong where we experienced a unique way of arrival but more about it in the next article about my experience with travel back to the UK that I am in the middle of writing.

FOOD 

bag with food

I was worried “modified” service means … no food or drink service.

It turns out there was no drink or food service or shopping, but they did provide some small meal and water. It contains chicken in a sweet bun, oolong tea cookies and ice cream.

  • The best was oolong tea cookies.
  • Ice cream by Haagen-Danz tasted great as expected.
  • I was about to write that water tasted like water as it contains water only, but it turns out I was wrong. The water was made by Bonaqua – The Coca-Cola Company. It contains water, magnesium sulphate, potassium chloride and sodium chloride. I wonder why you need the last three indgrients. 
mineral water
  • One small bottle for 3 hours of flight? Well, the good news is that you could ask for more water.
  • The last but not … actually … least favourite was the main—the too salty chicken in the sweet bun was horrible.

Normally, I will complain about it but based on circumstances that could be the best option for operational and financial reasons.

The tip about flying that saved me is: Eat before the flight and bring on your food as you never know what you will get. 

SEAT

I heard stories about airlines split people and some interesting arrangements to prevent people from being infected. Cathay Dragon didn’t bother. Most people seat close to each other in rear part of the airplane. Only five people were in the middle section. I count around 30 people we could seat 1 per row :).

Almost empty cabin

Seat in the economy class are in 2-4-2 configuration, and while we asked to seat together for some reasons i was seating in the middle section (Seat G) while my wife and son on the side (H and K).

My seat was broken. I was asked by the staff to change it for safety reasons, and I comply with this request I chose another seat. Guess what? I chose a seat that has the same recline problem. Am too heavy for Cathay Dragon seat? 🙂 

The seat itself was good, and the table was awesome. In-flight entertainment system was outdated. It wasn’t a flagship product but good enough for this flight. An alternative to the seat are flight on Airbus 321 by Air China, and I prefer tired-looking old seat on wide-body aircraft.

STAFF

I read about some odd comments regards cabin crew in some airplanes that still operate from/to mainland China during this outbreak (not Cathay Dragon).

While I know that staff from Cathay Dragon flight KA993 on 17 February, they will never read this, but in the unlikely case you read this, I want to say BIG THANK YOU for your hard work in this unusual circumstances. I must be a bit stressful for your flight, and it provides some inconvenience to your daily life later on. I respect you for that. 

How did it look on my flight? I rarely saw staff on this flight. They stay away from us as much as it was possible for as long as possible. I expected that and I was surprised to see any of them.

Sounds bad? Is this deserve criticism? NO. I guess it must be some sort of protocol to reduce the risk of getting infected to a minimum. I had a few interactions with them. They were friendly and helpful. The safety is always first. This apply to staff too! I appreciate that I had any service and fact that they work in stressful situation.

I feel also sorry for them that they needed to deal with passenger who just cause some problems for them during our flight. It is sad to see lack of respect for staff.

CONCLUSION

Honestly? It was a great flight given extraordinary circumstances. I never know that it is possible to arrive 53 minutes earlier on 3 hours 50 minutes flight (except when you are flying on the stream through Atlantic during the storm).

It was interesting to fly in almost empty medium-sized wide-body aircraft.

The staff was very friendly, even if they were like a ninja. I understand the way they provide service, and I would like to say thank you very much!

I was lucky to be assigned to the seat that was broken, but it was even funnier to choose randomly seat that has the same problem.

I am glad that they provide food but this chicken …but at least we had good ice cream.

Dear Cathay Dragon! Thank you for this service during this troublesome times and I hope to try Cathay Dragon another time during a typical day.

Resources

  1. https://www.airfleets.net/ficheapp/plane-a330-512.htm
  2. https://www.flightradar24.com/data/flights/ka993
  3. https://www.cathaypacific.com/cx/en_HK/travel-information/flying-with-us/aircraft-and-fleet/cathaydragon-airbus/a330.html

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