TRIP REPORT: Austrian, Sarajevo - Skopje via Vienna


Route: Sarajevo International Airport - Schwechat International - Skopje
International Airport
Trip taken: September 2018
Scheduled Time: 80 minutes + 95 minutes (75 minutes layover)

Linking the capital cities of the former Yugoslav countries can usually be a serious challenge. Despite being regionally important capitals, Sarajevo and Skopje do not have nonstop flights - the two countries, with their shared and mostly negative experience with national carriers seem much further apart than they are in reality.

Since I required a Saturday flight, travelling through Belgrade with Air Serbia was impossible - the flight from Sarajevo lands in the Serbian capital well after the weekend flight to Skopje is gone. The only real possibility was Austrian Airlines through Vienna - with a good combination of flying time and layover, but with a price that is all but low. Leaving Sarajevo early in the morning, with the departure scheduled for 7.35, opened the question of foggy mornings in the Bosnian capital. However, despite great oscillations in day and night temperature, this morning was bright and clear. The airport opens at 5AM, so arriving there meant it was still dark.

The check-in process was completed smoothly. The departures area of Sarajevo International Airport is a single lounge with just a couple of gates. Wi-fi service is complimentary for 15 minutes, but you need to complete a slightly more complicated procedure to connect - and the instructions are located only at the coffee shop despite the fact the network is working throughout the entire airport.

Not so easy to connect at Sarajevo International Airport

The daily schedule at Sarajevo fits on one screen

Gates for the afternoon flights can be assigned very early

Austrian Airlines deploys the Airbus A320 on the Sarajevo route - a large aircraft obviously needed because of the number of passengers of Bosnian origin living in Austria, and also passengers with connecting flights. The flight to Vienna was basically the only one that morning from Sarajevo to one of the larger European airports, so several passengers used it as their first connection for overseas trips.

Airbus A320 at the gate

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was assigned the emergency exit seat, with extra leg room - and I only asked for the window seat. The flight attendant briefly asked me if I spoke English and showed me the written instructions - without making any further comments or inquiries.

Apart from the fact that the runway at Sarajevo International Airport was well-known during the Siege of Sarajevo during the war in former Yugoslavia, it also offered some really interesting views - such as the location of the football pitch. One less precise shot, and the ball could actually end up on the runway.

Taking off from Sarajevo ahead of schedule was a relief as that meant more time in Vienna for the transfer and also more time for the luggage to be properly distributed. The flight was very calm, so the catering service was completed efficiently and smoothly, with the standard choice of drinks and a chocolate bun.

Schwechat International Airport also kept Sarajevo and Skopje far from each other. Arriving at one terminal meant the approximated walk of 25-30 minutes to the other, as indicated on the airport screens. In reality, it did not take that long to walk - but it did take that much time with one security screening. The flight to Skopje was placed in the G section, where the gates are also assigned for the overseas flights. The boarding started on time and it was done without the assistance from ground staff - passengers were advised to scan their QR codes and proceed through the automatic gate.

However, it took some time for the airport staff to get another bus for passengers, so we were stuck at the end of the tunnel for about 5-7 minutes.

The flight from Vienna to Skopje was operated by the Airbus A319. While boarding was taking place, the crew informed us the flight was fully booked and asked all passengers to keep their luggage in the overhead compartments. The plane that was about to take us to the capital of Macedonia was named after the capital of Georgia - Tbilisi.

With a delay of around 20 minutes, the Airbus A319 took us to Skopje. The weather was almost perfect, so the flight was very smooth. The service included a standard choice of drinks and a choice between the salty and sweet snacks. The salty ones were the pretzels, while the sweet one was the widespread brand from Vienna.

The Austrian Airlines flight touched down at Skopje at the exact scheduled time - a rare situation to see a minute-precise landing. I was very happy to find out my luggage also made it to the capital of Macedonia on the same aircraft - it proved that around 90 minutes was more than enough for ground handlers at Vienna Schwechat Airport.

Overall, this was a good flying experience - despite it was much more complicated than would be expected. However, when the impressions are combined with the ticket price, the final conclusion is a bit less positive. But with the limited choice of options - there are few alternatives to even consider.

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  1. Anonymous09:18

    now thats a weird routing indeed.... thx for the report, good to hear that VIE-SKP was full

  2. Anonymous10:42

    Nice report.

    The football field so close to the runway is interesting to say the least :D

  3. Anonymous12:04

    Thanks for the nice report.
    Indeed Austrian is regular choice for transfering from Balkans. I do not find Vienna airport very convenient even though it is advertised as super friendly airport for connecting passangers. Our flights from the Balkans are regularly performed from remote stands which includes using lots of stairs, caring hand luggage and standing in the bus. Many corridors at that airport are narrow, toilets located on lower floor in the gates areas thus walking up and down with luggage required. Not to mention regular fleet maintenance problems, delays and cancellations by OS.

    1. I've never once had a delay with Os, I find connecting at Vienna very good, but the remote stands are annoying at times!

    2. Anonymous09:35

      Lucky you. I have had numerous delays and cancellations over last few years. The most notorious case was in Belgrade when they checked us in, opened the gate and cancelled flight 35 minutes before departure. Aircraft didn't even depart from Vienna so obviously a long delay or cancellation was expected during the check in time. They did nothing to rebook transfer passengers to JU flight departing almost at the same time.

  4. Anonymous12:25

    Nice report. Such a shame you could note travel through Beograde. It shows once again how flowed the AirSerbia concept is. If you want to be "gateway to the region" and real hub you must have at least three daily frequencies to all capitals in the region.

    1. Anonymous12:35

      same goes for OU, no sat. flights to SKP

    2. Anonymous14:00

      Nice report, but the routing tho :)) Think I'd take the bus

    3. Anonymous15:21

      Regularly completed 25-40 mins connections in Vienna and only once sth went wrong with luggage, actually somewhere on the way someone broke my suitcase but I got completely reimbursed the new buying price by Austrian, although my bag was old.

    4. Anonymous16:07

      My luggage was damaged during connecting flights with Austrian on 9 September. I have made a complaint on 10th. Travelled back to Belgrade on 20th and only heard from them on 2 October. So much for the customer service.

  5. Anonymous19:19

    I think football saved SKP for being full.
    Wizz struggle to fill the planes to SKP lately.


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