TRIP REPORT: Etihad, Belgrade - Abu Dhabi

TRIP REPORT


Submitted by: BEG Flyer

Here is a quick trip report of my flight EY72 from Belgrade to Abu Dhabi. The return experience was the same so I've only added a few photos from that journey at the end (it's a red eye so taking photos is a bit more difficult). I took the Belgrade - Abu Dhabi flight in mid-November. It was a work day to be exact and checking the seat map several hours before departure it turned out that there were just two empty seats on this A320 in economy and six in business, although it would turn out later that there was a passenger sitting next to me, and that in fact there were five vacant seats in business. I booked business on the outbound and economy on the inbound. Then I used my Etihad Guest miles to upgrade to business on the inbound flight, which was approximately 24.400 miles. It's the first time I've done this and the process was seamless. I did it online and it took two minutes.

Seat map business class - blue indicates occupied seat


Economy seat map

Etihad has dedicated check-in desks at Belgrade Airport. As I remember, for a short while, their check-in used to be done by Air Serbia. The process was quick and I headed to the Air Serbia premium lounge.


Air Serbia premium lounge



As I wasn't actually hungry and just had some coffee in the lounge, I didn't stick around for long and headed for the gate where a line had already formed, since the security check is done at the gate in Belgrade. Shortly after, business class and Etihad Platinum and Gold members were invited to board.



I think Etihad's hard product on their narrow body fleet is quite good. The seats are large and comfortable and I like the overall decor. The seats also have a very generous recline. The two crew members working business class were extremely polite. There was an Indian purser and a Romanian cabin crew member serving the eleven passengers in the cabin. Both of them introduced themselves personally to each passenger. The purser was really pleasant and took great pride in the fact that he knew several words in Serbian which he communicated with the passengers when taking their meal order, which was done quickly after boarding. He asked if I wanted "kisela voda". Beforehand, passengers were offered a welcome drink - a choice between water, mint and lime juice and champagne. I took the mint and lime juice which was really delicious. Warm towels were also distributed, while the menu was in the seat pocket.





The contents of the menu is below. The menus are also printed in Serbian, which is a nice touch.



We pushed back right on time and after a longish taxi (as runway departure was on the opposite end from the terminal) we were airborne.


I wanted to connect onto the Wifi only to be surprised there was no connection available. I asked the crew members if Wifi had been turned on, but she explained how Etihad does not provide this service on its narrow body fleet. This was a real surprise since I have flown Etihad numerous times (the last time in June) and there has always been Wifi available. In fact, their entire fleet is fitted with the service. After a while I realised that in an attempt to cut costs they have discontinued this service from their A320/A321s. This is a shame because it was the only point of difference and upper hand, in my opinion, they had over Qatar Airways on their flights from Belgrade, since Qatar does not offer Wifi on most narrow bodies (although this is changing).

The choice and selection of movies was quite good. The PTVs extend from the armrest and there is also a USB port, as well as power sockets.


After departure we were offered some warm mix of cashews and almonds with a drink. Afterwards came the entre, for which I chose the Arabic mezze and then the main, for which I chose the tortellini. The meal was delicious.




Shortly after, the cabin lights were dimmed and stayed that way pretty much until we started our descent. The crew did go around several times and asked if anyone wanted a drink or something to eat.



Kuwait City

Overall, I do think Qatar Airways has better service on these flights from/to Belgrade. The meals are more elaborate and there is much more attention to detail. On the other hand, I prefer Etihad's crew, not because they are more polite (usually Qatar's is) but because they are less robotic. On Qatar I always get the sense as if they are petrified of the passengers and are just too nice (I know it sounds odd but I hope you get what I mean - they are nice to the point that I feel uncomfortable). On Etihad the crew are much more relaxed and have a human touch. However, it is unfortunate that Etihad has obviously cut some costs. No more Wifi on narrow-bodies (which was offered for a fee in the past) and no more amenity kits on these shorter flights. Of course, nothing major but still on a market they compete against Qatar Airways and Flydubai's new premium product on the B737 MAX 8 it's all the in the little details, especially since prices on all three in business are more or less the same.

Landing in Abu Dhabi was extremely smooth and on time. The final announcement was also read by one of the crew in Serbian so there was Serbian speaking crew on board as well. We parked at a remote stand quickly after turning off the runway. We parked next to a Jet Airways B737. The doors were opened quickly and there was a business class bus to pick up passengers. The Indian purser farewelled passengers in Serbian with "Dovidjenja" and "Hvala", which all the passengers seemed to appreciate.


The return flight was similar, although the crew was really exceptional. We had two Serbian crew members in business - Mira and Stanislava (if I remember their names correctly) who were just extremely friendly and joyful and were obviously excited to be flying back home for a 24 hour layover. For a flight departing at 2AM they brought a smile to most of the sleepy passengers.

Some photos from the journey back to Belgrade.





Hope you enjoyed!

Comments

  1. Nice and detailed report. Thanks.

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  2. Nice report, I heard Etihad is always full out of Belgrade. Don't know why they are so slow to increase capacity! It took them three years to replace the A319 with the A320. I hope next winter they introduce the A321 to BEG.

    This report was published on the same day their high-season second daily flight starts. :)

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    1. Thanks. I have flown with them a lot and they are full every time. But I guess it comes down how much money they make on the route. I'm not saying they don't, but it's a question if they would make that much if they sent a wide-body. On flights from Abu Dhabi there is always a lot of passengers who are transferring via Belgrade onto an Air Serbia flight. Every time when we disembark there is an Air Serbia staff member holding a board with at least 6 or 7 flights written on it for connecting passengers. So I'm guessing the ticket prices for these were not all too expensive.

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    2. But increasing to A321 would bring down their CASM. This could work as it seems they don't have an issue filling seats.

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    3. The BEG-AUH route still remains fragile.
      I mean DOH-PSA is also operated by A320 but I still find it weird that AUH-BEG is operated by a small aircraft. Why not send at least A321 or A330?
      It's like flying Dublin to Canary Islands with a supermarket 737-800 :(

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    4. Supermarket 737-800. :D
      I think we will have to see what Etihad does in winter 2019. If they keep BEG as more than daily then next summer we might see a larger aircraft on the route- most likely an A321. They desperately need that early morning departure out of AUH in order to improve connectivity. I think that's why they have gone for extra frequency rather than extra capacity.

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  3. Great report. I love the EY uniforms. Very stylish. If there is one thing Hogan knew, then it was marketing.

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    1. +1
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcEfKovFzf0

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  4. Brilliant report and very nicely written. The photographs are very good too.
    Did you fly JU business class by any chance?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I have flown on their business class a couple of times but I have to admit this was during their old business product (which was fantastic). The last couple of times I flew Air Serbia it was economy. I travel a lot so I quickly got Etihad gold status so with that I get business check-in, priority baggage, lounge access and priority boarding. With all of that included, the only difference between economy and business is the drinks/food on board. For the price difference, I don't think it's worth it. Exception of course is the JFK flight.

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    2. Thanks and happy flying ;)
      Hope you get a chance to try their First Class on the A380. Seems bloody fantastic!

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  5. Nice report.
    I had a chance to fly with Etihad in long haul business class (AUH-HKG) and it had additional improvements. Improved seats that can be fully flatten for sleep, bigger screens, improved menus, snacks, etc.

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