TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Ljubljana - Niš

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Written by Matjaž Nose

Some basic data of the flight:

Flight number: JU1193
Flight date: 15 August 2019
Operated by: Air Serbia
From: Ljubljana (LJU)
To: Niš (INI)
Scheduled departure time: 14:00
Scheduled arrival time: 15:25
Aircraft type: A319-132
Aircraft registration: YU-APD (Goran Bregović)

I was pleasantly surprised some time ago when it was announced that Air Serbia would start flying between Niš and Ljubljana from the beginning of August. The route between the two cities was just one of the routes out of Niš airport that were established as a result of a subsidy given by the Serbia's government to help improve air connectivity of this south Serbian city. Consequently, the prices of these tickets are 'very promotional'. It is possible to buy a return ticket for as low as 50 € with hand baggage only. I decided to buy my ticket immediately when the new route was announced, but I was surprised that it took Air Serbia few days to start selling these tickets directly on their website. As I was so fast, the only way of buying a ticket when I decided to do so, was buying it through one of the online ticket booking platforms thus paying few euros more.

Out of curiosity, I decided to check how much a ticket would cost aboard the famous Niš Ekspres bus between Ljubljana and Niš and how many hours would I have to spend in the bus to reach Niš. The results of this online investigation are as follows: a return bus ticket would cost approximately 10% more but on the other hand, Niš Ekspres gives you over 1000% more time to spend inside their bus.

There are two weekly sets of flights available between Ljubljana and Niš, on Thursday and on Monday. Thursday mid-day flights depart Niš airport at 11:50 and Monday evening flights take off at 19:35.

After approximately one hour of actual flight time and 45 minutes needed for the aircraft to be prepared for the return flight at Ljubljana airport, the aircraft heads back to Niš the same day.

Niš is not a very common destination on Ljubljana airport boarding passes

I was flying out of Ljubljana on Thursday afternoon. There is a lot of construction work going on at Ljubljana airport so there are some traffic deviations and inconveniences related to these investments around the airport currently.


Construction work at Ljubljana airport

Ljubljana airport is a relatively small airport but you can still find all necessary services there. When I checked in an hour and a half before the flight, there was no queue at check in desks for my flight (Air Serbia does not offer online check in for the flights departing from Ljubljana, so I had to do it at the airport).


Flight departure information boards

Air Serbia's check in desks

The non-Schengen section of the airport departure gates has a small Duty Free shop as well as a Bar-Bistro-Cafe where you can eat something or have a drink before boarding the aircraft.

Non-Schengen departure gates area

Arrival of Air Serbia's A319 airplane from Niš

With some delay, there was an announcement for Niš-bound passengers inviting them to meet Goran Bregović. The aircraft named after this famous artist took off at around a quarter past two in the afternoon. The actual flight time was around one hour and we even managed to arrive ahead of the scheduled arrival time at Niš Constantine the Great Airport.

Gate No. 4 was used for our flight

Boarding through an airbridge

Ljubljana airport as seen from the airbridge

Taxing to runway for take off

The flight itself was more or less uneventful, though the cabin crew were very nice and attentive.

Every passenger was given a cold small bottle of water for free, with other snacks and drinks being available for purchase.

Slimline seats were also comfortable enough for this short flight which had a load factor of 70-75%.

Slimline seat

Inflight service - a complimentary bottle of cold water

Cabin during the flight

Two full pages of Air Serbia's August inflight magazine are dedicated to Niš flights
Departing Ljubljana airport, the aircraft headed south to Croatia, we overflew Zagreb and Tuzla before starting our descent to Niš airport.

Approaching Niš airport

There are no airbridges at Niš airport so we deboarded the airplane using mobile staircases (while boarding the airplane at Ljubljana airport, the airbridge was used). The airplane was parked walking distance to the arrival hall so no bus was needed.

Airplane was parked walking distance to the arrivals hall

Mobile staircases were used for deboarding

Walking towards immigration and baggage collection area

As I was travelling with hand baggage only, it took me only few minutes to clear immigration and be out of the airport. I paid 700 dinars (approximately 6 €) for a taxi ride to my hotel in the centre of Niš (there is a public bus connecting the airport with bus and train stations too).

After hotel check in, I was ready to start discovering Niš!


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Comments

  1. Nice report, Matjaž!

    Very nice and unusual route. I love the display flights panel in LJU and also the final approach to INI.
    The JU A319 seems to be in quite good condition too.
    Still find it cool that LJU is linked to INI, PRN, SKP and SOF - all cities relatively close to each other.

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  2. This is probably one of the coolest reports so far! I am happy you mentioned Nis Ekspres because they stand to lose the most from this flight. I am also impressed by the LF. Who were the passengers onboard? Serbs? Slovenes? Others?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words. The passengers were both, Slovenes and Serbians. As it was a holiday time, I presume there were also a lot of passengers visiting their relatives living in Slovenia or Serbia. I saw families with young children as well.

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    2. Did you enjoy your time in Nis? :D

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    3. Yes, I did enjoy it very much! There are very friendly people there and the food is great!
      I also went on a day trip to Đavolja Varoš.

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  3. How often does Nis Ekspres drive between INI and LJU?

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    Replies
    1. Those bus companies are overpriced and primitive outrageous disgraces. Often in the Balkans taking the bus is not only more expensive than taking the plane but the car as well if travelling for two people. That doesn't make sense. Besides you need to pay additionally for ''peron ticket' and 'luggage ticket' what is seen only in this part of the world.

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    2. That's why INI-LJU is such a success, people can afford to travel back home much more and there will be more Slovenian tourists coming to Nis. Hopefully next summer JU manages to increase it to three weekly.

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    3. There is a daily bus service from Ljubljana to Niš operated by Niš Ekspres on Tuesday, Thursday and Satruday and by Kami-bus (Slovenian company) on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. It takes 12 hours.

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    4. I think even more in summer, I read that the waiting time on the border is quite bad. Also I am sure it's not a pleasant experience stopping on the way especially in Belgrade.

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    5. It can be. I never took a bus to Niš and this was actually my first time visiting Niš. I just published the information I had found on the website.

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    6. What are your impressions about Nis?

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    7. I hope Nis will become an attractive destination for Slovenes like Belgrade is.

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    8. I really liked Niš. People were friendly, the weather was perfect to walk around, and the food was delicious. I am sure it will become an attractive route / destination for Slovenes to spend some time there but also for Serbs visiting Slovenia. It was a great long weekend for me - with just two days off work (Friday and Monday as Thursday -15 August- was a national holiday) I had enough time to explore Niš, its culture and sights. One day, I also took a bus (Niš Ekspres) to Prolom Banja and Đavolja Varoš.

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  4. Nice report and it's cool to finally see more INI reports! I hope with JU flights they go past 400.000 passengers in 2019.

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  5. How is it possible that on one if the screens stays that JP is flying to BEG when we all know it is not true?

    Is it maybe because of code share with JU?

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    Replies
    1. It shows the codeshare partner, the logo rotates between operating carrier and codeshare partners.

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    2. Yes, that is a codeshare partner. It is silimar on Adria flights to Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich where its codeshare partners are Lufthansa, Swiss but the flights are operated by Adria.

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  6. I wonder if INI is a missed opportunity for JP, seems there is a lot of local passengers. JU has no transfers.

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  7. Nice report. :) How was the load on the flight back?

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    Replies
    1. Even more than LJU-INI. I would say around 90% or more. I flew on Monday, 19 August.
      I was sitting in the last row and I could hardly see any empty seats.

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  8. 'a return bus ticket would cost approximately 10% more but on the other hand, Niš Ekspres gives you over 1000% more time to spend inside their bus.'

    This made me laugh so much! Thanks!

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  9. No cacanski chips on board?

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    Replies
    1. Nis flights apparently have different rules regarding catering/FF program....

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    2. Makes sense since tickets are so cheap.

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  10. Fantastic report, thoroughly enjoyed it, thanks Matjaz! Really seems like INI flights are turning into a bit of a success story after all.

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  11. Unfortunately not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was referring to Čačanski čips onboard here :)
      I think INI flights will be a success story for sure.

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    2. Yeah I figured you were referring to the chips, I butted in just before you managed to respond to the post above mine :)
      Your trip is a great example how when you establish a connection between cities, people will use it- if there were no Niš flights you would have spent your long weekend elsewhere, i’m guessing. Great work on the article once again!

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    3. Yes, definitely I would not go to Niš for a long weekend by bus.
      In fact, I had not been planning a trip to Niš before Air Serbia decided to establish direct flights between LJU and INI.
      I am glad you like the report.

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  12. Good loads on INI-LJU make me think if there is a greater need for improved inter-ex-YU connectivity. Maybe JU could operate some other routes like SKP-TGD/SJJ as well. The Atr is the perfect aircraft for it.

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  13. You were ripped off for the taxi, my wife and I paid 260 RSD for a taxi from the centre to the airport at 4am!

    I was on the INI-FKB flight yesterday, I can report ~95% LF and efficient service. The only problem is the ridiculous departure time (5:45), meaning you have to be in Nis the night before and be awake at 4am (particularly hard with children). There were lots of gastarbeiters but also some foreigners (I spotted some Germans, Turkish, and English people).

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    Replies
    1. Wow impressive, if youbdonyo mind, how much was the ticket?

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    2. 22€ each (bought 2 months in advanced)!

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    3. Thanks for the information on taxi prices in Niš. On the way back to the airport I took a public bus for 60 RSD, so overall it was not too bad. I hope you enjoyed your INI-FKB flight.

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    4. Wow...€22 one way I suppose? :D

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  14. Thank you for your trip report. Does LJU airport get crowded any time during the day?

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    Replies
    1. There are three peak hours at LJU airport for departures when it is a bit crowded:
      7:00 - 8:00 morning Adria departures to the north and west (Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Vienna, Brussels...)
      12:00 - 13:00 mid-day Adria departures to EX-YU destinations (Sarajevo, Podgorica, Priština, Skopje, ...) + Aeroflot to Moscow every day
      17:00 - 18:00 late afternoon departures to north and west bound destinations again

      This is true if Adria flights are not cancelled of course :)

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    2. But does it get really crowded or just busy?

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    3. I fly to Ljubljana frequently for business and I have never really seen it too crowded. It was busy at times but most of the time its kinda ok at security, although the space before some gates is too tiny in certain areas and times of the day.

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  15. Fun trip report, thank you!

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  16. Hey guys! Italian student from Italy here. I’m planning to visit Serbia and I was trying to book a return ticket from Bologna to Nis in December and I found the flights in the days that I wanted to travel to Serbia all blocked/full. Is it possible that the flight is doing so good to be all booked so in advance? Hope u guys have a nice evening. Ciao,
    Francesco :)

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    Replies
    1. Ciao Francesco, it is possible as lots of people want to use days off work due to Christmas and New year holidays....good luck with tickets and benvenuto a Serbia!

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    2. I wouldn't be surprised many from Belgrade and other parts of Serbia rushed to buy them since tickets were so cheap!

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    3. Very possible Francesco. I flew BLQ-INI two weeks ago and it was literally full to the brim. Lots of Kosovo Albanians in Italy seem to be using this route from what I saw. It would have been 90%+ LF. Now that everyone knows the routes and how cheap the tickets are (Air Serbia has done a lot of marketing around these flights surprisingly enough), I'd say that they're booked out in December. Maybe try Rome - Nis instead, not sure how booked up that one is.

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    4. Actually they don't have to be from Kosovo, there are a lot of Albanians from Presevo and Bujanovac who emigrated to Italy. How do these people reach let's say Pristina or Djakovica? Are there buses from Nis or do they have someone pick them up? I wonder if soon enough we might have minibuses driving between Nis airport and various cities in KiM.

      Delete

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