TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia by Etihad, Belgrade - London


Route: Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport - London Heathrow Airport
Trip taken: July 2019
Scheduled Time: 3 hours 5 minutes

Exactly one year after my previous flight to London Heathrow from Belgrade, I was ready for another trip on the same route. However, this year, there was one extra option. Air Serbia introduced a second daily flight to London, a slot given from one of Etihad’s subsidiaries. The timing of the flight was much more convenient, as the take off from Belgrade was scheduled at 16.15 which gave me more time to finish some business in the Serbian capital.

The time slot at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport for this flight turned out to be in one of the “sleepy” periods for the airport - there were just a few other flights at the same time, so the hallways and the counters were literally deserted.

Online check-in procedure went smoothly. I was automatically assigned an extra leg-room seat, however the middle one. With a polite question, the ground staff at Air Serbia check-in counters changed it to a window seat free of charge. This would cost me around 5 EUR online.

Right on time, the all-white Airbus A320-200 was parked at the gate. This flight is fully operated by Etihad, with one of their planes stripped of all the branding from the outside. This could bring some memories of the times when Jat Airways planes were flying all-white without branding, in the last decades of the company under that name.

Since this flight was recently introduced, and the number of tickets sold is still very limited, the choice of gate was A8. It is located in the oldest section of the departures level at Nikola Tesla Airport - the one that also reminds of some old times. The waiting room was very small, with insufficient seating for an Airbus A320-200. However, since the flight was far from full - it was enough. At these gates, there are no toilets or the opportunity to buy water or food before boarding the plane. With Nikola Tesla Airport rules, any liquid would be taken from you before getting to the gate, so this might be a serious problem - especially when flying Air Serbia. The need for refurbishment of this part of the airport was visible also with water dripping from the air-conditioning system.

The boarding procedure was completed on time, as several dozen passengers filled mostly the window seats of the aircraft. The interior of this Airbus featured Air Serbia branding on the seats. The crew was dressed in Etihad uniforms, with one member speaking Serbian. It was interesting to see the mixture of Etihad and Air Serbia print material in the seat pockets.

The flight to LHR was smooth and nice, with some mild turbulence over Austria, during which the seat-belt sign was on. The crew had enough time to do two rounds of selling products from the menu, with the option to pay in cash or by card - still only in RSD and EUR, not in GBP.

During the flight that took slightly less than three hours, the notorious “salty fish and water” was served to all passengers, free of charge.

Air Serbia’s on-flight menu has a typo – Plazma should be Biscuit, not a Buiscuit

There were exactly 17 salty fishes in the small bag that was barely sealed

The arrival at LHR was on schedule and the permission to land was granted quickly - something that is not so often the case in London. Just like in Belgrade, the timing of the flight was good as the long queues at Terminal 4 for passport control were gone. The whole procedure of getting into the UK lasted less than 15 minutes. Even with such short procedure, the luggage was already waiting at the belts - one of the greatest and fastest delivery services I have experienced recently.

The choice of this Air Serbia flight proved to be the absolutely the right one. Good time slots, very comfortable flight, quick service and timely arrival were all the positive asepcts of JU388. The return option was also perfectly timed - flying from London at 20.45 local time gave me plenty of opportunities for spending another day in the city. With this combination being priced the same as the “old” Air Serbia flight, it would be expected to see more passengers on board. But the promotion of this flight, as well as highlighting all the opportunities it brings, has not been taken seriously by the company and hasn't been as successful as this journey itself.

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  1. Anonymous09:20

    What a huge difference between the JU A320 and EY A320. Two different worlds!

    1. Anonymous09:44

      And that HUGE difference is...No paint on EY plane?

    2. Anonymous09:54

      Plus JU has more legroom.

    3. Anonymous10:49

      Private TV screens, modern look. The cabin looks much newer. The cup holder.

    4. Anonymous12:27

      Wow and that is huge difference?
      Cup holder..LOL!
      What about flying times?
      What about better legroom on JU flights?
      That matters and not the color of seats...

    5. Anonymous14:00

      JU definitely not have more legroom than EY. JU has 30 inches and EY 32 inches... And yes i've flown both and EY has one of the best A320 cabin i've ever seen.

  2. Anonymous09:26

    Danas 2 A320 u rzmaku od 10 min. za London. Dobar posao za AS.

  3. Anonymous09:43

    If anyone had a doubt that Serbian taxpayers are paying for the losses of an Arab airline, this report shows it very clearly.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Anonymous09:46

      Where did you see it?

    2. Anonymous09:54

      He said that window seats were occupied during the flight so there were at least 60 passengers. 60x100 (average fare to LHR) is 6.000 so even if the route is losing money I doubt it's that much.

    3. Anonymous10:18

      Where does it clearly show who is paying for this? Incredibly ignorant comment. Etihad is simply using this to keep the LHR slot. It is their plane and they are paying for it.

    4. Anonymous10:19

      A 35% load factor means that indeed this flights loses a LOT of money.

    5. Anonymous10:27

      Where did you see 35%? And who is losing money? Etihad?
      I am sure they made their own calculation that it is cheaper to make losses here than to lose LHR slot.
      You know, those LHR slots OU sold some time ago for peanuts

    6. Anonymous10:53

      Are you saying that Serbian taxpayers are reducing the loss of Etihad ¿ UAE have a crisis in general since last year.
      Or you meant Serbian taxpayers for JU?

    7. Anonymous11:00

      It's a ghost flight, read up on it, Etihad pays for the flights just to keep the slots.

    8. Anonymous12:39

      Its Its other a pointless flight. I heard IFE is not working on these flights i.e. what you see is lockscreen that can't be passed. And I see they put it on that rundown gate at BEG.

    9. Anonymous20:45

      Etihad might be loosing money on two additional daily flights they had to introduce from Abu Dhabi. This particular operation, like anything they did with AirSerbia is profitable for them. They took one of their A320 from storage plus crews they cannot employ fully and wet leased the plane to JU. I was told by JU employee that they were against and fully aware that lots of money is going to be wasted, but were forced to do it as Etihad needed to keep these slots. This additional flight makes no sense whatsoever.

    10. Anonymous22:25

      Yeah, sure

  4. Anonymous16:16

    JU388 and JU389 BEG- LHR-BEG is the worst performing of all JU flights this summer, average LF is less than 35%. Other JU flights to and from LHR are also affected in bad way.

    1. Anonymous16:46

      All the costs covered by Etihad.
      Please do not worry about it

    2. Anonymous20:47

      No, costs are not covered. JU is wet leasing the plane which flies the single route. Plus having other operating costs related to every single flight.

    3. Anonymous22:31

      I mean, if you already post fake news at least you should try it to look at...not funny.

      Why would JU use that plane only on that one route if they take over the costs? Why wouldn't they use it for some charter flight where they always need extra capacity or for some other destination like they use CRJ900?

      Oh yes, Etihad forced them to wet lease the plane and then forbade them to fly it on every other route than LHR..LOOOL!

      Obviously your attempt failed.

    4. 35% load factor???? WHAAAAT!!!!????

      is this real life?
      who flies 35% LF in 21st century???

    5. Anonymous23:45

      @Petar Celik
      JU does :))))
      35%LF is not tragic - if you are sending A321 between Frankfurt and Brussels or London and Luxembourg and have 30 people in business class (been on such flight).
      @anon 22:21
      As reported earlier on this reputable news outlet JU is wet leasing plane from Etihad for these flights and deal is to operate just those. Imagine if they were throwing even more money on wet lease by hour when they already have sufficient fleet and crews.

    6. Anonymous02:07

      "reputable news outlet JU is wet leasing plane from Etihad"

      No one including that outles has not been able to show any evidence JU is paying for that wet lease. Just a bunch of Air Serbia haters with nothing to prove.

    7. Dear anon@02:07

      "THIS reputable news outlet" means ExYU aviation news :)

      And indeed, as THIS reputable news outlet reported on 20 May 2019:
      "Air Serbia has finalised the wet-lease of an Etihad Airways Airbus A320 aircraft, with the jet entering into service on behalf of the Serbian carrier yesterday afternoon. Initially, the plane will be used exclusively on the airline's new afternoon flights between Belgrade and London Heathrow. Air Serbia has leased seven weekly slot pairs from Etihad at Heathrow Airport for a total of sixteen weekly rotations between the two cities."

      See further:

      If you maybe have info that JU is getting the plane and slots for free from Etihad, please share it with ExYU editorial board. These are serious people, and after verification I am sure they will publish the good news.

    8. Anonymous16:09

      MM you did not produce any EVIDENCE or proof of Air Serbia paying for EY slots, plane or crew. Exyu never claimed Air Serbia is paying for it. You accused Air Serbia, onus is on YOU to provide evidence.

    9. Fanboys never give up :)

    10. Anonymous17:51

      Какав фанбој, ја решавам патетичне хејтере из забаве. Много жалосних случајева има. На почетку су тврдили да Ербаси никад неће стићи у Београд. Па кад су стигли, онда су тврдили да путници никад неће прихватити модел чворишта јер ће Ер Србија бити на лошем гласу наслеђеном од старе фирме. Па кад су видели да је то донело милион нових путника, онда су хејтовали да се много губе кофери у транзиту. И тако даље, много је тужних ликова који лече комплексе па на крају одрасту и схвате да није проблем у Ер Србији већ њима. Биће и теби боље једног дана ММ.

  5. Anonymous17:21

    I will check them out on 11/08/19 London-Belgrade and 29/08/19 return.

  6. Thanks for the report. Always nice to read reports on the route I take from time to time.
    My friend took the Etihad operated flight in early July. There were barely 50 passengers on board. London has a variable LFs but that number is shocking for a summer period. They usually manage to have most of seats sold during British/Serbian school holidays.
    Flight was delayed by more than two hours (quite common for JU lately), service was very slow, they ran out of some food on inbound flight and the crew seemed bit confused, especially with cards and payments. All in all, not the best experience.

    1. Anonymous22:43

      It is clear that low LF can be justified by late start of tickets selling. At the end of April these flight were introduced at the time when many people already planned their holidays. It came simply too late. After all this flight was never introduced to bring profit but to keep LHR slots.

      "This flight is fully operated by Etihad" - why is it then common for JU to be delayed lately? EY crew, EY plane...

      And service was very slow - again nothing to do with JU.

      I fly very often with Air Serbia abd they never had problems with card payments.

    2. Oh well. They used to have lots of problems when they introduced BoB. At first only pursers were allowed to handle payments. It was a mess. Now they probably didn't train Etihad crews properly to use JU payment system.
      I can only imagine how it would look like on a full flight!

    3. Anonymous02:15

      MM has been shown to be placing fake info about Air Serbia here repeatedly. Just search for his earlier posts for evidence. He is lying againg about flight delays of more than two hours being quite common for JU. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary on the net, for example:

      Admin, please review. MM has been creating repetitive provocative and insulting posts with the only purpose of trolling against one particular airline. Thank you.

    4. Dear anon 02:15
      Please read once again and think before you attack.
      "Flight was delayed by more than two hours (quite common for JU lately)" - second part refers to general widespread delays of JU flights in last weeks. Unfortunately, those of us who fly regularly from BEG and with JU know this very well. I am not happy that JU turned out this way after 5 years and 500 mil EUR, but it did. Sorry.

    5. Anonymous16:00

      JU delays of more than two hours are NOT quite common across all routes. Internet tools keep track of actual times and you can't deny it, so stop lying.

    6. I just know what we have been experiencing since the start of the month.

    7. Anonymous17:42

      You just know won't cut it here. Flying out of BEG even once a day is not statistically significant. Looking at all JU scheduled departures from BEG in July, 2h+ delays are very rare. You can't win this one.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Anonymous02:33

    Some trip reports are paid by airlines to showcase onboard service. Point of this trip report seems to be exact opposite: an opportunity to attack Air Serbia.

    My favourite complaint is his petty count of 17 goldfish snacks in a bag. Our reviewer is showing a lack of experience in global airline travel. North American airlines would offer even less snacks in a tiny bag as a norm on most domestic trips of the similar length.


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