Cathay Pacific Airways got permission to fly to 15 cities in mainland China, losing 5 routes previously served by now-defunct Cathay Dragon.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) granted the Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific the approval to operate both passenger and cargo services to 15 mainland cities, including Fuzhou, Qingdao, Xiamen, Guangzhou, and Wuhan. That is in addition to previously granted permits to operate flights to the main hubs such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Five routes, previously served by Cathay Dragon, including Jinan, Kunming, Changsha, Guilin and Nanning, were not on the list, suggesting the permission for the routes was not granted. However, according to the South China Morning Post, in the light of political tension, the approval of 15 routes is good news for the Hong Kong airline.

On October 21, Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific announced plans to discontinue its subsidiary Cathay Dragon regional airline and lay off 17% of the company’s workforce. Dragon’s routes were overtaken by Cathay Pacific and its another subsidiary, HK Express.

The newly emerged Hong Kong-based Greater Bay Airlines (GBA) is seeking a slice of the Asian travel market previously served by Cathay Dragon. The Greater Bay Airlines CEO, Algernon Yau, is familiar with the Dragon routes as he worked as the now-succinct airline’s CEO until December 2020. The start-up airline has officially applied for the rights to operate 104 scheduled flights across Asia-Pacific, many of the destinations formerly operated by Cathay Dragon, and is expecting to start services in summer 2021.

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Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific closed down the Cathay Dragon brand in order to cut costs. But what was its role in the Cathay group and why was it crucial for the Hong Kong-based airline, especially in the late-1990s?