TRIP REPORT: Belgrade - Atlanta via Amsterdam

TRIP REPORT | INDEX


Written by i.am.a.must.have

After reading many interesting reports on this website, I decided to write my own. I fly frequently across both Europe and overseas and it was difficult for me to decide which flight I should cover in my first trip report ever. I wanted to analyze some flights that not many people from the ex-YU region had taken before. Since I fly between Belgrade and Atlanta, Georgia, the U.S., many times per year, I made a decision – my upcoming flights to Atlanta would be a perfect topic of my first trip report. Happy reading!


For my trip in early October of 2019, I decided to fly to Atlanta via Amsterdam (for the very first time), since this was the best option at the moment of purchase. It was a combination of Air Serbia/Delta Air Lines flights. I flew Delta before and I liked it every time, so I was looking forward to my upcoming trip.

The day before my departure, I checked in online through the Air Serbia website, got boarding passes for both legs, and added them to my iPhone Wallet.

When I was in Car:Go heading to the airport, I received both an SMS and an email from Delta informing me that my flight from Amsterdam had already been delayed. I knew that was going to be a long day.

I arrived at Belgrade Airport at 4:30 a.m. CEST. I had a bag to check in for hold and went straight to the Air Serbia check-in area at T2. I was surprised there was no one queuing, so I managed to check my bag in three minutes (last time I had to check in some bags was in July of 2019 and I waited for more than one hour in a queue). Even though I had my mobile boarding passes, the ground staff representative printed my boarding pass for the BEG-AMS leg.

Fun fact: she told me she couldn’t print my boarding pass for AMS-ATL leg since the codeshare agreement between Air Serbia and Delta didn’t cover printing of boarding passes.

I went upstairs for the passport control and saw a tremendously long queue. I decided to go to T1 to try to clear immigration there faster. This was a good decision since I got my passport stamped in less than ten minutes. It was 4:45 a.m. CEST, so I had plenty of time before the departure of my flight. I went to the Belgrade Airport Business Club since I am a holder of MasterCard Gold credit card. The Business Club was quite busy, and I realized more people had got in with their credit cards (the same way I did), than with business class tickets. The offer of food in the Club was standard – sandwiches, croissants, plenty of cold and hot beverages. In my opinion, BEG’s Business Club is nothing special; it’s OK when you access it with a credit card as a benefit, but if I paid a lot of money for a business class ticket, I would be disappointed with it. (Sorry I didn’t have any photos there, it was way too early in the morning and I was just trying to stay awake!)

I went to my gate for the day, C2, some one hour before the scheduled departure time. The gate C2 shares the same security check with the gate C1 (Air Serbia flight to Nice at that moment), so the queue was long – again. After some fifteen minutes, I cleared the security check, and shortly after the boarding started. The boarding was smooth, and I was on board the Airbus A319-131, registration number: JU-APC aircraft (named after Novak Djokovic), in no time.

Fun fact: Air Serbia used that aircraft for its first flight ever – Belgrade to Abu Dhabi on October 26, 2013.

The crew was overpolite (as always), they performed the safety demo fast, and we departed at 6:50 a.m. CEST. I didn’t count how many people were on board, but I would say that the load factor was 90+%. Shortly after, the crew started the complimentary onboard catering service, and I got a 0.25-liter Iva Junior still water and two pieces of Noblice biscuits. I was extremely tired, I fall asleep soon after the departure, and woke up when the crew was announcing the start of the descent. The captain addressed the passengers informing us about the weather in Amsterdam. We landed on time at 9:10 a.m. CEST but taxied for some twenty-five minutes more – the Schiphol Airport is enormous.

The aircraft was disembarked using the front left door only, and I was glad we were connected to the airport via a jet-bridge. However, as soon as we stepped onto the jet-bridge, the ground staff at AMS Airport directed us downstairs, and we were taken to the airport building by bus. I followed the transfer/connections signage, and since I was flying from a non-Schengen country (Serbia) to another non-Schengen country (the U.S.), I didn’t have to go through the immigration. I noticed that other passengers from my flight leaving at Amsterdam had to wait for immigration clearance in the transit area since the screens were showing that the passport control area was crowded, and no one could leave the transit area. I went for another security check (the area was deserted, I was the only person there). In no time, I was in Schiphol’s transit area.



My number one rule when connecting: find your gate first and, if there is enough time, explore the airport! I checked the screens and realized my gate changed – it was E19 now. While heading towards my gate, I saw self-transfer kiosk and decided to print my boarding pass, just in case (the one that I was not able to get in Belgrade). Smokers - good news: there are designated smoking areas at the AMS Airport (the one I saw was located between the E8 and E9 gates).


I found my gate and still had some four more hours until the departure of my flight to Atlanta. I was a bit hungry and sleepy and went to Starbucks to get some food. I had a croissant roll and a Tall Cold Americano for 8.60 EUR.


Since I still had plenty of time, I kicked off writing this trip report. It took quite some time, and around noon CEST I headed towards my gate, E19. The gate area had already been crowded when I arrived. The airport ground staff addressed the passengers apologizing for the delay and informing us that connecting passengers will be re-booked once they are in the U.S.





Fun fact: ATL Airport is one of the biggest airports in the world in terms of connecting options, it is Delta’s biggest hub, and has been the busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger numbers for years.

It is interesting that Delta uses airport monitors to invite passengers to its front desk at the gate for additional checks, and not through a PA system. I saw my name on the screen, went to the desk, and a very pleasant Dutch KLM’s ground staff just swiped my passport and visa again (apparently that was everything they needed from me). There, they distributed “Kids Coloring Fun Activity Book” and “Word Search, Crossword and Sudoku Puzzles” free of charge.



Boarding started at 1:40 p.m. CEST – Sky Priority status holders were invited to board first, then Silver Medallion members, and then all other passengers. The aircraft, Airbus A330-323, registration number: N811NW, was boarded through one door only, so it took an hour for all passengers to get on board and take their seats. I am a Silver Medallion status holder, so I had a benefit of boarding before all others and could choose my seat in advance free of charge. Since I am a tall man (1.88 m), I chose 27A – a window extra legroom seat. My seat was equipped with power and USB outlets, and an IFE system hidden in the armrest. While still on the ground, cabin crew distributed complimentary Travel Kits (in Amsterdam branding) and Earphones (in Breast Cancer Research Foundation – BCRF branding). Safety demo was played on the screens, and one hour after the boarding started, we took off and were airborne at 2:45 p.m. CEST.





Interesting facts: there were ten cabin crew members on my flight, a mix of males and females. The thing that surprised me a lot was how Delta cabin crew members are super relaxed. They were greeting other passengers, smiling all the time, but they didn’t look tidy at all (dirty shoes, messy hair) – they didn’t care, and I sort-of liked it. It was very interesting to me to see how cabin crew behaves in America since I used to work as a cabin attendant in Europe (my first job; it’s been a while!). Every year in October, Delta partners with the BCRF to raise funds for breast cancer research. Since 2005, Delta employees and customers have raised more than 16.9 million USD. As a nice touch, all cabin crew members wore pink ties/scarfs to support this campaign.

The captain addressed us as soon as we departed and announced the flight time of 9 hours and 10 minutes, as well as expected frequent turbulences throughout the flight. Again, I didn’t count passengers, but the plane was full; my estimation was the load factor of 99%). All passengers received a menu, a 0.5-liter bottle of water and a hot towel, followed by a beverage (hot and cold drinks, including alcohol) and snack service. My other rule when flying: do not drink fizzy (a.k.a. carbonated) drinks! I had a glass of orange juice and two bags of snacks (some cheesy crackers and speculas biscuits).





Some two hours after we took off, the cabin crew started the first meal service. I opted for a “Glazed Chicken Breast with Cheddar and Onion Mashed Potatoes and Yellow and Orange Carrots” meal, served with a salad, Bavarian bun, crackers, Dutch cheese, butter, and a Lemon & Caramel cheesecake. Since I flew with Delta a lot in 2019, I had already had a chance to try everything it offered on its menu. The chicken dish was nice, quite delicious for a plane meal.


I got my blanket, eyeshade, and earplugs on, and fall asleep. I woke up just for the middle-flight service. I got a warm chocolate cookie and orange juice. Since we still had four hours until the arrival, I took some time to keep on writing this report.


The in-flight entertainment (IFE) system worked fine. The screen was very responsive, and there were available a lot of new movie releases. The screen also featured additional USB and earphone outlets. I am not a fan of watching movies/TV shows while on board, so I didn’t use it at all. I always prefer reading or watching something on my phone (I usually download what I want to watch before a flight). I took some photos, though, so you can get the impression of it. Besides movies, TV shows, music, and games, the IFE also included general details about Delta, the flight, real-time map, etc.







One and a half-hour before the arrival, the second meal service started, and the cabin crew gave us hot towels first. I chose a “Stoke Baked Four Cheese Pizza with Tomato Twist” meal and a “Magnum” ice cream, as well as orange juice (again!) and cold Starbucks coffee. This pre-arrival meal was not as good as the first one.


Thirty minutes before the arrival, the crew started the preparation for landing, and the captain addressed us sharing more info about the weather in Atlanta. We landed at 6 p.m. EDT, an hour and ten minutes behind the schedule. Even though ATL Airport is huge, we taxied for some ten minutes only. Twenty minutes upon arrival, I reached the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) area – or simply, the U.S. immigration. I queued for thirty minutes and cleared immigration fast. Sometimes I think it’s easier to enter the U.S. than the E.U. The CBP Officer just wanted to know what the purpose of my visit was and how long I planned to stay. After that, I went to the baggage claim area and my suitcase was already off the carrousel – a common practice at the ATL airport; ground staff is aware that the CBP procedures can take a while, so they move all bags off the belts to make them available for other flights.

To sum up: Overall, I liked this journey. Air Serbia service in Europe is very similar to the one of LCCs, so it doesn’t make much sense to comment on it. On the other hand, I think Delta offers great service and value-for-money on its international routes.

I hope you enjoyed this trip report. Please share your feedback in the comment section below and let me know how I can enhance my future reports. Thank you all!

Comments

  1. Must say I'm surprised by Delta. Much better than I expected.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Delta, pretty much, sets up standards, which many have problem to reach. ATL is huge airport. There is an old documentary on Youtube about ATL. It is even crazier now.

    ReplyDelete
  3. how do you usually fly from ATL to BEG?

    ReplyDelete
  4. "The thing that surprised me a lot was how Delta cabin crew members are super relaxed."

    Well, who knows what they did (smoked) in Amsterdam ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Da je ErSrbija slicna LCC ne bi ste mogli da koristite biznis salon na aerodromu,morali bi ste da platite prtljag,ne bi ste dobili vodu i kolac u avionu,ne bi ste mogli da se povezete na drugi let sa istom kartom.ErSrbija na svojim evropskim rutama pruza nista manje od LH,Swis-a i ostalih i dosadni ste vise sa tom mantrom o LCC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree with this. I think the author either doesn't have experience with LCCs or he's heard somewhere that AirSerbia is like an LCC, so he's happy to repeat it. Connectivity, along with the lack of baggage fees, on-board service and being able to use a business lounge is a huge advantage from my perspective. But somehow the author forgets it. Try flying any other major European non-LCC within Europe, and you'll see what the experience looks like... in my mind, not much different from AS.

      Delete
    2. It's all in the name.

      Delete
    3. The author entered the business lounge courtesy of his credit card. Btw, to the author, do you know that you can use the airport fast track with your Mastercard gold card, I've used it on numerous occasions: https://www.mastercard.rs/sr-rs/consumers/offers-promotions/premium-program/premium-brzi-prolaz.html

      Delete
    4. Buddy try flying with LCC Frontier or Wizz and you won't get a drop of water free of charge. That's LCC, not Air Serbia. On my Delta flights from Atlanta (both domestic and international) service was at the same level of Air Serbia. In basic economy I had to pay 30 bucks for checked bag and got only a cup of water and Delta branded cookie, when I asked for a Coke they said flight is too short. Really???

      Delete
  6. Nice to see that JU flight was full to AMS. Looks like a busy market.

    ReplyDelete
  7. According to these trip reports all BEG flights recently have around 95% LF. My experience is the same as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well BEG has been experiencing double digit growth for the past several months.

      Delete
  8. Here's feedback you asked for: on the + side very detailed and informative report. On the - side: missing photos of BEG and Air Serbia. Doesn't take much for a couple of pics even when sleepy. For a former cabin attendant and not just some random passenger, double standards when describing Air Serbia as 'LCC' and Delta as 'great'.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Quick feedback, since you've asked for it. I don't live in the ex-Yu region, but I find some people who live there super pessimistic about their own countries and products. It's almost like a viral disease. It's cool to whine about AS or Croatia Airlines, which I find bizarre. And that all prevails until they live in a foreign country and experience comparable things. Not to sound like a snob--but I find the author kind of inexperienced in terms of (travel) experiences, and because of this, his post comes across a bit amateur.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

EX-YU Aviation News does not tolerate insults, excessive swearing, racist, homophobic or any other chauvinist remarks or provocative posts with the intention of creating further arguments. A full list of comment guidelines can be found here. Thank you for your cooperation.