After a summer of using low-cost airlines like Wizzair and easyJet to travel around Europe, it was a relief to step back aboard an Emirates 777-300 for its full-service business class on my flight back to Dubai from Budapest.
They say you don’t ever really value something fully unless you have tried living without it.
Budget carriers have their place for short business trips and their schedules can be very convenient. But working on board is a chore as you jockey with families and larger travellers who can barely squeeze into their seats.
Step into the spacious, well-organised world of Emirates business class and it is a very different story. From the smiling staff with hot towels and a welcome drink to the plug for the charger at your elbow, you can instantly relax and get on with your work. The comfort of the Boeing 777 has not changed that much since it first entered the Emirates fleet in 1996 for the new kangeroo route to Australia, then via Singapore, and I also reviewed that flight.
The Budapest 777-300 is now configured for business and economy only, so there is no first class, a dying luxury in these days of tighter corporate and personal travel budgets.
Still that has the benefit of making business the new first class. A few years ago you could only get a beef fillet right at the front of the plane. Now beef fillet with chili butter is served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables are on the menu in business class.
What a contrast to the awful sky cafes offered by the budget carriers. Full silver service with a choice of three appetizers, three main courses and three desserts plus a cheese board.
Business class comes with other perks. The quick dedicated check-in desk. The fast track through security, enabling me to avoid a lengthy queue.
Even the security was faster for those with the right boarding pass. Inside the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport you are forced to walk through the duty free, and then head up the escalator to the Sky Lounge that Emirates shares with other airlines and certain credit card holders.
This is a comfortable lounge with huge blue soft chairs, flight information and non-stop CNN and BBC. It was only disappointing to have the FT Weekend available midweek.
But then everybody uses the internet and the Sky Court automatically logged me into the Wi-Fi as a frequent guest. My Emirates-Citi credit card also grants me access.
Catering facilities in this lounge are limited, with a tray of deli items to enable you to make your own sandwich, and Hungarian salty snacks made mainly from sauerkraut.
At least the coffee machine is good and the internet high-speed. Budapest currently enjoys the fastest internet in Europe, more than 100 mbps is par for the course.
Ferenc Liszt is small by comparison to London or Dubai airports, so it is only a five-minute walk to the gate. Again as business class passengers you get special treatment with your own access channel and I quickly found seat 6A which has extra legroom by the cabin door.
Indeed, this particular seat is well suited to those wanting more personal space and quiet as there is nobody either directly behind or in front of you.
We arrived ahead of schedule at Dubai International Airport. The Smart gate made entry a breeze, so I did not need the fast-track pass handed out to the business class passengers.
Priority business class baggage also worked brilliantly, with our luggage among the first to emerge. Then business class passengers get to enjoy a complimentary limousine to take them home.
In Budapest, you have to make your own way to the airport, about €25 (Dh106) for a Mercedes taxi or €3 for the Mercedes bus service introduced in July that used to be empty, but this secret is now out.
Travelling in style may not be quite what it used to be, but Emirates still sets a very high standard.