Review: Cathay Dragon 603 A320 Economy Class Xiamen to Hong Kong

Introduction: Too Low for a Tulou
Cathay Dragon 602 A320 Economy Class Hong Kong to Xiamen
Barkla Concept Hotel Xiamen
Fuxinglou Tulou Yunshuiyao
Hakka Capital Hot Springs Resort
Cathay Dragon 603 A320 Economy Class Xiamen to Hong Kong


We got to Xiamen Airport at around 1 PM, after a four-hour drive from the hot springs hotel. This left us less than two hours for our 2:50 PM flight.

img_3836 Xiamen Gaoqi Airport Exterior

Unfortunately, we entered through the arrivals area, so needed to go through a checkpoint to get through a departures area. That took a bit of time to find, though we were through without too much hassle.

While many “small” airports in China have unexpectedly gorgeous check-in terminal designs (take Kunming’s airport, for example), Xiamen’s Terminal 3 isn’t one of them. The ceilings were low, and there wasn’t much interesting architecture anywhere, without much natural light.

img_4784 Xiamen Gaoqi Airport Terminal 3 Check-in

The Dragonair check-in counters were located at the very end. They were already using the new Cathay Dragon signage, which was interesting since the change was due a few days after we were flying (specifically, we were flying on a Friday, and the change was due on Monday, November 21st). Hints of the transition continued to pop up throughout our journey.

img_4785Xiamen Gaoqi Airport Terminal 3 Check-in

The terminal opened up a little through immigration, where the lines were substantial. My immigration officer had problems finding one of the words of my Chinese name, as is the norm every time I visit China. Customs was situated after immigration at the terminal, and I had a pat down, though upon squirming the officer avoided patting me down anywhere near “restricted areas”.

After we found ourselves airside, we sat down at a nearby Burger King, then quickly transitioned to the gate area. Unfortunately, the crew only started coming as it neared 2:05, so it was evident that we weren’t boarding anytime soon. The gate area was actually gorgeous, consisting of different seating areas, though for some reason I can’t find the pictures I took.

At around 2:30 PM we started lining up, and people followed. We were told it would be another ten minutes but decided to stay put. Finally boarding began at 2:45 PM, five minutes before our scheduled departure time.

img_3837Dragonair Airbus A320 Xiamen Airport

Boarding started with business class passengers and Marco Polo members, though as for non-status economy passengers, I managed to be first onboard.

Cathay Dragon Flight 603
Friday, November 18th, 2016
Origin: Xiamen (XMN) Gate: 17 Dep: 14:50 (15:20)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 501 Arr: 16:40 (16:40)
Duration: 1 hr 50 min (1 hr 20 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Seat: 43A (Economy Class)

The walkway to the plane was wide, long and slightly curved, though eventually we made our way there.

img_3838 Dragonair Airbus A320 Xiamen Airport

I managed to snap a decent picture of the entire plane before boarding, despite the windows being rather dirty.

img_3839Dragonair Airbus A320 Xiamen Airport

The aircraft we were on featured the new economy class seats. While I’d have wanted to review the old seats as well for variety, at least I had the StudioKA app downloaded, so could take advantage of that on this flight.

img_3840 Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class

img_3841 Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class

I was seated on the left side of the cabin, though the seat wasn’t any different, so I’d suggesting checking out my outbound review if you’re interested in the seat’s features.

img_3842Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Cabin

I was also excited that this flight had air nozzles, which is a trend on Dragonair narrowbody aircraft (they also have air nozzles on their A321s).

img_3845Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Air Nozzles

There was also an internet connectivity guide, which worked gate-to-gate.

img_3848
Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Streaming Instructions

During this time I glued my eyes right outside the window, to admire the Xiamen quasi-heavies outside the window. Xiamen Airport is home to XiamenAir (I think that’s at least slightly understandable), so the airport is basically lined up with their aircraft, with a few other aircraft popping up along the way.

img_3843XiamenAir Boeing 737-800 Xiamen Airport

Soon we pushed back at around 3:20 PM, and the crew gave a manual safety demonstration. The captain came on the PA apologising for the delay and saying that we’d make up for lost time during the flight.

It was interesting to see the copious amounts of Xiamen aircraft, some of which still featured their old livery. I love the new livery, as it’s streamlined and modern/vibrant – but the old livery is pretty plain.

img_3846XiamenAir Boeing 737-800 Xiamen Airport

img_3847XiamenAir Boeing 737-800 Xiamen Airport

We also taxiied past some private jets, which were equally interesting.

img_3849Business Aviation Asia Gulfstream G550 Xiamen Airport

img_3851Avtrade Beechcraft 350 Super King Air Xiamen Airport

I also managed to catch a XiamenAir 737 taking off as we taxiied.

img_3853XiamenAir Boeing 737-800 Xiamen Airport

I also got to see a (really dirty) XiamenAir 757, which I hadn’t ever seen before. XiamenAir only has four 757s in operation now, though this isn’t one of them – it had been stored where it was since May 2015.

img_3855XiamenAir Boeing 757-200 Xiamen Airport

We eventually turned left and taxied over to the end of the runway, which gave me great views of the terminal. XiamenAir has a lot of 737s!

img_3856XiamenAir Boeing 737-800 Xiamen Airport

While Xiamen Airport isn’t nice from the inside, it looks very interesting from the outside.

img_3857Xiamen Airport Terminal

Apart from all the XiamenAir aircraft we saw, there was an ANA Cargo 767, but that was about it. I also swear I saw a XiamenAir 787 somewhere, but I couldn’t photograph it in time.

img_3860ANA Cargo Boeing 767-300F Xiamen Airport

I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in housing near a runway – it would either be really good or really bad (most likely depending on if people that lived there were aviation geeks or not – I don’t think it matters at much since the airport is pretty quiet between 11 PM and 7 AM, but still.

img_3862Housing near Xiamen Airport

The cabin was then prepared for takeoff, and unlike the last flight all bins seemed to be stowed properly this time.

img_3861Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Cabin Before Takeoff

The views we had upon takeoff were great, and showed us a clear view of Xiamen’s infrastructure, which is pretty neat.

img_3863Views upon Takeoff Xiamen Airport

img_3864Views upon Climbout Xiamen Airport

img_3865Views upon Climbout Xiamen Airport

img_3866Views upon Climbout Xiamen Airport

img_3868Views upon Climbout Xiamen Airport

img_3870Views upon Climbout Xiamen Airport

img_3871Views upon Climbout Xiamen Airport

Most of my friends went to sleep since it was a pretty long day, despite it only being around 3:40 PM.

img_3874Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Cabin

I connected to the WiFi and had a look at the movie and TV selection, which was extensive, though I can’t find the screenshots I took for some reason.

Soon a meal service was offered, which once again featured a hot meal, a snack and juice. I had everything, and the hot meal consisted of a chicken burger, which was decent but not great (already leaps and bounds ahead of what I expect from Chinese catering).

img_3875Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Meal

img_3876Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Meal

The chicken itself was pretty flavourful, if not doused in a soy sauce/glaze.

img_3877Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Meal

Service on the flight was inexistent and rushed as is the norm for quick hops around South China, so I don’t have anything to add there as I had no interactions with the crew.

I finished the meal rather quickly, as I was pretty hungry (despite having eaten a burger prior). I resorted to staring out the window for the rest of the flight.

img_3878View out of Window between Xiamen and Hong Kong

img_3879View out of Window between Xiamen and Hong Kong

Soon the captain came on the PA and said that we’d be landing on time, and said that weather would be rather cloudy and foggy in Hong Kong – weather we didn’t have for any of our time in Xiamen, and for a bit of our time in the Fujian countryside.

img_3880Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Cabin Before Landing

img_3881Cathay Dragon Airbus A320 Economy Class Cabin Before Landing

img_3882View Before Landing Hong Kong Airport

Once we descended below the clouds the view became visibly foggier.

img_3883Views upon Descent Hong Kong Airport

img_3885Views upon Descent Hong Kong Airport

img_3887Views upon Descent Hong Kong Airport

img_3889Views upon Landing Hong Kong Airport

We quickly made our way back to the Northern Satellite Concourse, which is ultimately better than a remote stand, though still not ideal. We parked next to another Dragonair A320 that I’d seen a few days prior.

img_3890Northern Satellite Concourse Hong Kong Airport

I made my way off the aircraft and followed everyone to the buses, getting a great shot of an Air China A330 along the way.

img_3891Dragonair Airbus A320 Hong Kong Airport

img_3892Air China Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong Airport

We had to be bussed back to the main terminal, though since we were last off the plane, we just missed out on a spot on the bus. Fortunately the next bus that pulled up only featured the few of us left behind, as well as the crew that took us back – they seemed like rather hipster, stereotypical Hong Kong flight attendants.

I took a few shots of aircraft getting back to the terminal. This included an Air New Zealand 777-200, which gave me flashbacks (speaking of which I can’t believe it’s been three years since my first few flight reports, one of which was on an Air New Zealand 777-200).

img_3893Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200 Hong Kong Airport

I also saw a China Airlines 777-300ER, which I really want to fly in the future.

img_3894China Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Hong Kong Airport

We got close to a few Dragonair/Cathay Dragon A320s on the drive back, and I noted that most A320s featured the new products already, so I’m happy the refurbishment process was a quick one.

img_3895Dragonair Airbus A321 Hong Kong Airport

img_3897Finnair Airbus A350-900 Hong Kong Airport

We alighted and met up with the rest of the group close to a Lufthansa A380, which I’m actually excited to be flying late next week.

img_3898Lufthansa Airbus A380-800 Hong Kong Airport

img_3899Lufthansa Airbus A380-800 Hong Kong Airport

img_3900Lufthansa Airbus A380-800 Hong Kong Airport

Bottom Line on Dragonair A320 Economy Class

While the new seats are great, Cathay Dragon overall offers a serviceable shorthaul product. While there’s nothing that makes it stand out, they do offer some kind of entertainment and food, but that’s about it. I can’t speak for XiamenAir, though I know that they also offer a solid product, so I’d be willing to try them if I had the chance – though I’d still go out of my way to fly an A330 or an A321 if I had the chance, given they have much better seats with better legroom and IFE.

Bottom Line on This Trip: Too Low for a Tulou

Yes, I know that’s a really crap pun, but what else do you expect from me?

Overall I had a lot of fun and gained a lot of Chinese culture during this trip. My highlight was definitely staying in a tulou – while it wasn’t the most comfortable experience (to put it mildly), it sure gave me a lot of insight in how people around the area live their lives. I’d do this trip again, though next time I’d do it alone, to gain more insight and research on how people there survive on a daily basis and how they satisfy themselves and live happy lives.

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