Dragonair was formed as the first Hong Kong based competition to Cathay Pacific and began operations in July 1985. Cathay fought hard to thwart its ambitions and was largely successful in doing so after the Cathay influenced Hong Kong government introduced a one route / one airline policy shutting out Dragon from the international markets it wanted. With Cathay concentrating on other routes Dragonair was at least able to expand its mainland China operations and the fleet grew to six 737-200s. No longer a direct competitive force Cathay nonetheless made sure it would never be one when in January 1990 itself, its parent SWIRE Group and CITIC Pacific acquired an 89% stake in the airline.
In April 1996 Cathay Pacific reduced its ownership to 25.5% when China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) purchased 35.86%. CNAC's stake was increased following listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It was perhaps symbolic of new beginnings that in 1997 a Dragonair flight was the last to operate into the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. With a new ownership structure Dragonair was able to gradually begin to exhibit some greater independence from Cathay and this would increase following the repeal of the one airline / one route policy in 2001. In part 2 we'll look at Dragonair in the 2000s.
All timetable images are from the collection of David Zekria at the excellent www.timetableimages.com
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: