Saturday, February 24, 2018

TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Belgrade - Vienna

TRIP REPORT


Submitted by Miroslav Mešanović

The Economy Restricted Promo Ticket bought for this trip was booked at one of Air Serbia’s sales in mid-December 2016 for travel in October 2017.

My intent was to have almost full three days in Vienna, arriving early in the morning on the day of FIFA qualifier of Austria vs. Serbia. The price, combining morning outbound and evening inbound flight was 110 euros RT, instead of the regular 160 euros RT at the time. Economy Restricted Promo included: 1 piece of carry-on baggage, 1 piece of checked-in baggage, meal & drinks onboard, airport check-in and last but not the least – free seat selection during booking process. In the meantime, Air Serbia had switched from Amadeus to Sabre, so my original booking reference became obsolete and also had started to downgrade the economy product by enforcing paid check-in at the airport and introducing charged seat selection. Sadly to note, I was not informed of the new booking reference, and I had to contact the Air Serbia Call Centre. I always buy my plane tickets directly from the airlines and I find this to be the safest in case of possible situation/event. I wanted to get additional information 72 hours before my departure (such as why am I not assigned to any seat at all) and upon contacting a Call Centre agent I was referred to contact the travel agency/agent who had sold me my ticket, because it is evident that Air Serbia did not sell the ticket. I had to be rather persuasive at explaining that they did sell me the ticket and after a couple of minutes of waiting for the Supervisor to react and sort things out, it turned out that I really bought my ticket from Air Serbia but there are still issues with migrating to the new reservation system. Unfortunately, they were not able to assist me with the seat allocation – I may do it during online check-in or one of their colleagues from Ground Services would give me a hand at the airport during baggage drop-off.

A day before the actual departure for Vienna, I decided to give Air Serbia’s Online Check-In a try. Everything went smoothly and I was automatically allocated to seat 09C without any option to choose the seat on my own. Two hours later I received a text message and e-mail from Air Serbia. The text message was rather disturbing - your flight JU600 has been cancelled. E-mail is different - We would like to inform you that your flight JU600 within your booking has been updated. The revisions are included below…Air Serbia has upgraded this flight to a jet engine (Boeing 737-300) while rescheduling departure time from 06:55 to 07:20.


Day of departure - I was at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport Terminal 2 (BEG) at 05:30. Friendly ground staff agent was directing passengers into two lines - check in and baggage drop-off. Agent handling the drop-off was young and his attitude on the very border of being rude. Constant change of the business model led to weight and size checks of every possible item of carry-on baggage. The passenger in front of me found new rules disturbing and asked for a supervisor to be present. Once I had approached the counter, I decided to check-in my cabin size suitcase and enjoy the flight carrying only my trusty backpack (at the time of writing this review, the mentioned backpack is in line with sizes given for the 2nd personal carry on item in Economy Class). I gave my passport and Etihad Guest member card, and received a baggage tag. The agent inquired if I would like to have the standard boarding pass coupon printed, which I gladly accepted.

After clearing the customs and passport formalities I went straight to BEG’s Business Club Lounge. It is worth mentioning that while not exclusive as Air Serbia’s Premium Lounge, this airport operated lounge works round the clock. Beside C Class Passengers, free access is granted to passengers holding certain debit/credit cards issued in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Privilege Pass holders. In the early hours, one can rest in a quiet ambient – not so many passengers. Lounge operates on self-service basis and boasts alcoholic, non-alcoholic and hot beverages. Depending on time of the day there is a selection of food. A selection of fabricated sandwiches is available 24/7. The only drawback of the lounge is stained carpet.



Half an hour before departure time, I left the lounge in direction of gate C1. Belgrade Airport is easy to navigate and although there are no moving walkways, one needs no more than five minutes to reach any gate. The good old YU-ANK Aviolet Boeing 737-3H9 (MSN 23715) was ready to board at gate C1. When needed, Air Serbia deploys this bird to its scheduled operations. By the book, it serves charter operations under Aviolet brand. Boarding went smooth, and I tried out Air Serbia mobile boarding pass for iWallet App. Without any issues, I was able to do the boarding pass scan in this manner. Ground Service Agent wished me a pleasant flight.


The cabin was almost full and a friendly cabin crew of 4 directed the passengers. Even before abandoning the dedicated business seats on board their A319/A320 aircraft, Air Serbia had replaced these seats in the Boeings 3 years ago. I managed my way to seat 09C, aisle. I like these genuine JAT Yugoslav Airlines seats by Recaro. Although old, they are still comfortable. Boarding completed, and it seems the middle seat will stay free to Vienna – nice! Pushback time 07:20, just on time. The plane taxied its way to Runway 30 and 8 minutes later at 07:28 take off. Soon afterwards, the crew started handing out very tasty small sandwiches (sandwich rolls with beef salad). Corn-flower pastry was a real treat. Morning flight, but who cares – red and white wine and beer were together on menu, so why not? Especially if one is thrilled because of the big match later that day. The only flaw of the service – no wet napkin. Unfortunately due to mild turbulences, service had to be stopped by the time the crew reached row 11. I was rather lucky!



At 08:19 the plane touched down at Vienna International Airport (VIE). Total flight time: 51 minutes. We were put on a bus and shuttled to passport control. Overall, a pleasant flight with dedicated crew on board. Of course, it is a pity that Air Serbia was not able to deploy one of its Airbus jets, but OK.



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5 comments:

  1. Great report, thank you!

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  2. The B737 is looking great! Still in shape!!
    Brilliant report!

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  3. Great report Miroslav!

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  4. Thank you Miroslav!

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  5. Oh my wonderful report, lovely to hear that great aircraft I used to work with is still flying well 😁

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