The airline was established in May 1985 on the initiative of KP Chao, the airline's present honorary chairman, and started operations in July 1985 with a Boeing 737 service from Kai Tak International Airport to Kota Kinabalu International Airport in Malaysia. At the time, Dragonair was only a small player in the Asian skies, and the airline's name was Hong Kong Dragon Airlines. In 1986, the airline officially changed its name to Dragonair and was granted licences to operate to eight cities in mainland China and a regular service to Phuket. In 1987, the airline began charter flights to mainland China. This was also the year that Dragonair became the first Hong Kong-based airline to join .
In January 1990, Cathay Pacific and Swire Group acquired a 35% holding from the Chao family, while CITIC acquired a 38% share. The Chao family retained a 22% stake with the remainder held by minor shareholders
Dragonair joined the Oneworld alliance as an affiliate member on 1 November 2007 .
Dragonair codeshares with Air China on flights between Hong Kong and mainland China , Royal Brunei on flights between Hong Kong and Bandar Seri Begawan and China Southern Airlines between Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
is another partner codesharing with Dragonair, on routes to Kota Kinabalu. The current sole shareholder of Dragonair, Cathay Pacific, has recently put on its 'CX67--' or 'CX68--' code on most Dragonair flights.
The Dragonair fleet consists of the following aircraft .
Dragonair's planes are mainly white, with a red dragon on the tail, and the name Dragonair written in dark lettering under the front passenger windows, and in red lettering over the front passenger windows also. Recently, Dragonair introduced its first livery paint on A330, with the registration code of B-HWG. The paint portrays a Dragon Boat on sides of the aircraft. The and word of was begun to be placed under the registration code of tails of aircraft after Cathay Pacific became the sole shareholder of Dragonair.
The dragon has, inexplicably, three left and one right claws.
At Hong Kong International Airport, ground services are handled by Hong Kong International Airport Services Limited, a subsidiary of Dragonair. They operate Airside/Landside Operations, Baggage Services, Cargo Services, Ramp Services, Ticketing & Information, Station Control, and Flight Operations for Dragonair and several other airlines at this airport.
It also provide VIP lounge services to Dragonair.