Executive travel: Night flight via Wizz Air to Budapest a good idea, but be ready to sleep upright

While navigating through Al Maktoum International Airport was a whiz for this business traveller, getting on board the Wizz Air flight to Budapest was less so.

Although construction work at Al Maktoum International Airport is in full swing, flight traffic for now at the airport is limited to budget airlines and cargo. Courtesy Dubai Airports
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This was my first time travelling from Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai's second airport near Jebel Ali, on a flight to Budapest. The airport is in a zone called Dubai World Central, where the Expo 2020 will be held and whose site is already a hive of activity, with arc lights ablaze even late in the evening.

Al Maktoum will eventually be the largest airport in the world, but it is currently one of the smallest with low-cost carriers and cargo only. That makes it a cinch to get around.

Arriving at the designated two hours before the flight there was a long queue. But eight check-in officials made relatively quick work of it. Online check-in was not possible for this flight.

The passport control reminded me of 20 years ago when I arrived in Dubai with no waiting time and the security gate was also totally uncrowded.

Inevitably the departure lounge is largely given over to a substantial Dubai Duty Free. Thanks to my Lounge Key pass, courtesy of a Citibank credit card, I could use the Marhaba lounge near the food court, a windowless and picture-free space with a very limited buffet.

We got on to a bus to take us to the plane. Forty-five minutes later, the freezing-cold bus dispatched us to board the aircraft.

No information was given during this rather painful experience, although the cabin steward later apologised.

Apparently the rear steps had bumped into the aircraft on delivery, and the delay was caused by the fuselage being checked for safety reasons. Understandable, but why keep us standing in a cold bus with no information?

On board we located our extra legroom seats which cost an extra €37 (Dh145) each. This was a good idea for a night flight, originally due to depart at 21.35, and now running over an hour late because of the stair incident.

However, what we did not know is that Wizz Air’s leather seats do not recline, not by a single degree, so this was a question of enduring a six-hour, night flight sitting bolt upright.

There is also no entertainment system. But snacks and drinks are available from a trolley at reasonable prices. My water and Pringles came to €7.

q&a some redeeming features

Peter Cooper expounds further on his Wizz Air experience:

Who is Wizz Air?

Wizz Air was founded in Budapest in 2003. The low-cost airline got a boost in 2012 when the Hungarian national carrier Malev collapsed. It started this year with 77 aircraft in operation, all A321 and A320s, with 135 on order. Dubai is its only destination outside Europe.

How low-cost is Wizz Air?

One-way from Dubai to Budapest was around Dh1,200, including the extra for seat booking and a 23 kilogram case and large-sized cabin bag. Only small cabin bags are complimentary. That is about half what you would pay on Emirates but then you get a more comfortable daytime flight.

How was the arrival in Budapest?

When I arrived at 3am in the morning the airport was deserted. Passport control was quick and easy. But it took another half an hour for bags to be offloaded. Taxis from the airport to central Budapest are plentiful and cost about €25.

What aircraft does Wizz fly to Dubai?

The new Airbus A320 I flew on could accommodate 180 passengers. It's quite a small plane for a long-distance route and more prone to turbulence than the 777s Emirates flies to Budapest.

Any redeeming features?

The cabin staff are young, polite and speak good English. The online booking system is also easy to understand and operate. And while you pay extra for baggage and allocated seats, this is very clearly explained.


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