Hong Kong: Is Dragonair Going the Way of the Dodo Bird?

Airlines and Aviation

To paraphrase Mark Twain, news of Dragonair’s death has been greatly exaggerated. No, the airline is NOT going to the way of the dodo bird. But what does the future hold for Hong Kong’s second flag carrier?

Aviation cathay dragon

Birds of a feather flocking together: Dragonair gets a new livery – and a new name.  Photo Credit: Cathay Pacific Airways.

Dragonair became a full subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Airways in 2006. Ten years later, the transition takes a Great Leap Forward – with  a new livery and a new name.

Is Dragonair going the way of the dodo bird? Not really. But its name sure is. Just like so many other airlines that have flown off the radar screen before it.

Dragonair was acquired by Cathay Pacific Airways in 2006, and the two sibling carriers have retained their separate identities and (mostly) non-competing route networks ever since.

Cathay flies mostly internationally and Dragonair flies mostly domestically. But there are a few exceptions.

Cathay Pacific flies to a few larger travel destinations in China and Dragonair to a few smaller travel destinations elsewhere in the region.

That is most likely owing to their fleets: Cathay Pacific has mostly longer range (and therefore larger aircraft, which can accommodate larger payloads), and the opposite is true of Dragonair.

But those in the know (regionally, at least) know that Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair are members of the same group, sharing the same loyalty programme, for example. They also share mutual check-in counters.

Old Liveries Die Hard!



Cathay Pacific Airways Lockheed L-101 in CX’s old livery. Photo Credit: S. Fujiok (above); Dragonair Airbus iA320-232 in its current livery. Photo Credit: Suni Gupta .

Cathay Pacific rebranded itself several years ago, and that included a new livery (with a new colour scheme). I didn’t like it at first, but I eventually came around.

And now Dragonair is going to do the same. Its new livery is a carbon copy of the Cathay Pacific livery in reverse: everything will be the same except the green with be replaced by a deep red.

The red, in fact, has been made a bit deeper – just like Cathay made its green a bit deeper when it carried out its re-branding exercise.

So far, so good. I never really liked the dragon logo: I always thought it was a bit weak. A bit more ferocious, maybe? Stronger graphics, perhaps?

As for the name change, well, I’m not so enthusiastic: Cathay Dragon? Are you sure?

Recent Trends

Cathay Pacific has cadence, and so does Dragonair (although I always thought the A should be upper case, in keeping with recent trends of running two words together and upper-casing the first letter of the second word).

But Cathay Dragon just doesn’t make it for me. Sounds too simple, not very creative.

I mean just how many minutes did it take someone to come up with that? It sounds like something someone came up with at a board meeting, and everything said, “Sounds good!”

Needless to say, Dragonair probably doesn’t have much resonance outside of Greater China. If the two airlines are going to maintain their separate focus (while wanting to foster a singular identity), why not something zestier like Cathay Pacific Express?

I know, I know … they want to keep the word “dragon” in the name. But let’s face it: re-branding exercises are nothing new. Airlines do it all the time. Does anyone remember after a few years?

’The Only Way to Fly!’


Western Air Lines DC-6. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.


Does anyone remember that Air Canada used to be called Trans-Canada Airlines? Or that British Airways used to be known as British Overseas Airways Corporation?

How many people remember (or care) that Eastern Airlines was absorbed by American Airlines – or that Capital Airlines was absorbed by United Airlines (who went on to absorb Continental Airlines?)

And whatever happened to Air California and PSA? I know, does anyone else? Most of the time it doesn’t matter. But sometimes it does.

For me (and others of my generation), Western Air Lines might have gone the way of the dodo bird. It might never rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

But it will ALWAYS remain, “The only way to fly!”

Slogans don’t get much better than that!


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