Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Limited which operates as Dragonair, is an airline based in Hong Kong (China). It is a subsidiary of the largest airline in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, and is at the same time, the second largest airline in Hong Kong. It operates as a network company of passengers with routes to destinations in the Asia-Pacific region, and focusing especially on the Chinese market. Its main operations center is the International Airport of Hong Kong.
The airline was established in May 1985 on the initiative of KP Chao, the current honorary president of the airline, and began operating in July 1985 with a Boeing 737 carrying out a flight of the Kai Tak International Airport to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport in Malaysia. At that time, the airline was only a small competitor in the skies of Asia, and its name was Hong Kong Dragon Airlines. In 86, the airline changed its name to Dragonair (although its Chinese name continued to be the same) and obtained authorization to fly to eight cities in China and a regular flight to Phuket. In January 1987 the airline announced an order for two long-range MD-11 aircraft, however, it was not able to get the regular routes that it needed to compete effectively. In 1987, the airline started to offer charter flights to China. This was also the year that it became the first airline in Hong Kong to be a part of the IATA.
From the conception of the airline, it became involved in protracted legal disputes with Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, the largest airline in Hong Kong.
In 1993, the Airbus A320 entered the fleet, followed by the entry of the Airbus A330 in 1995. There was a major redistribution of shares in April of 1996, when China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) acquired the 35.86 % of the airline and became the largest shareholder. This increased its stake in the airline when it made its entry into the stock market of Hong Kong on the 17th of December of 1997.
In 2000 the airline began to carry out cargo operations to Shanghai, Europe and the Middle East using leased, Boeing 747-300 aircraft, then it added a new flight to Osaka in May of 2001. The airline acquired two more 747s in 2001 and increased its cargo destinations to Xiamen and Taipei. The net profit of the airline increased by 60 percent, to $540 million in 2002. The volume of cargo experienced a growth rate of around 50% in 2002.
The airline began its operations of regular passengers to Bangkok in November 2003 and began to fly to Tokyo Narita International Airport in April of 2004. The burden continued to grow and the airline opened a shipping route between Hong Kong and Shanghai via DHL in June of 2003 and used a leased Airbus A300 cargo aircraft to begin to make its cargo flights to Nanjing in June of 2004. A second European daily route to Frankfurt and London (at the time there were only flights to Manchester and Amsterdam) was created and, in mid-2004, the company had 5 Boeing 747 cargo and 26 passenger Airbus. It expected to open a route to Sydney in the second half of 2005, Manila, and Seoul were other destinations proposed. Also the airline was thinking about starting flights to the United States in 2005, first with cargo flights to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Columbus. The airline also planned to double its cargo fleet, gaining nine Boeing 747s in 2008.