TRIP REPORT: Flying Air Serbia's 32-year-old 737

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Written by Veljko Marinković

Flight: Air Serbia JU 540/545, Belgrade- Milan- Belgrade
Aircraft: Boeing 737-3H9, YU-ANK
Age: 32 years

In October 2019 I flew from Belgrade to Milan Malpensa airport and back with Air Serbia. The departure flight was in the morning and the return flight in the evening. Both were operated by Aviolet’s Boeing 737-300, reg. YU-ANK. The return flight was scheduled to operate with an A319 but was changed to the B737 during the day. As I saw, most of Air Serbia’s flights to Milan are operated by B737s. I generally enjoy flying this aircraft. My first flight ever was on JAT’s B737, and most of them have been on this type so there is something that makes me feel great flying on these machines.


These flight to Milan was no exception. Friendly and smiling crew, seat pitch was fine, but Air Serbia needs to decide on the future of its B737 fleet, because they need an urgent cabin upgrade. The cabin looked very rusty, cracks were visible on some seats, the cushioning could be seen coming out of some seats and the handle on my seat went all the way back to the row behind me when it was lifted.


Both flights had a load factor of more than 90%. On the outbound flight there were only two seats empty in economy and I am not sure how many passengers were in business class (3-5). However, on the return flight business class was full, 8/8. Since I was seated in the row behind, I spied on the business class service 😊. They were offered champagne before take-off, and the main dish to choose from was between salmon and chicken. Also, cookies or cake, fresh fruits and wine was served after the meal. I would say pretty nice service. For us mortals in economy there was chips and water.



The return flight was delayed by about 25 minutes (we landed on time). Due to the chaotic boarding process and because there was no space in the overhead compartments, hand luggage of the last passengers who boarded was taken to the belly of the plane.

It seems that Air Serbia is really trying to get extra income with additional services. Even though I fly with Air Serbia several times per year, it was the first time I ever got several e-mails days before my flight to upgrade to business class by making a bid, and, if my offer was accepted, they would charge my credit card. For me, it was an interesting offer, but then I realized that the starting bid could not be lower than 50 euros, so I quickly gave up.

Milan Malpensa airport looks very nice. Large and comfortable with a number of premium and normal brand stores, lots of cafes, restaurants, shops; but the major problem was that after landing we had to wait for over two hours at passport control. Only two police officers were working, catering for one Emirates B777 and our flight. Therefore, it was very crowded. The experience changed my opinion of Greek passport control, compared to this, they are very, very fast.

It is nice to see that ExYu aviation is quoted in Air Serbia's in-flight magazine, Elevate 😊



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Comments

  1. Veljko, thank you for a nice and concise report! Especially for the "sneak peak" into short-haul business class. I did bid for the upgrade on my AMS-BEG flight and they did not accept it, at the end they flew C with 0 seat filled. Oh well xD

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  2. Thanks for the nice report. I flew from Berlin to Belgrade at the beginning of October with this plane as well. I was surprised when I saw B737 instead of A319.

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  3. It had a nice livery when it got delivered 1985 to JAT. My first flight was April 1987 LJU-BEG and
    I wouldnt mind flying it again too.
    Thanks for yr report.

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  4. OMG - I had the disgrace of flying one of those B733 a couple of weeks ago, on a bit longer flight. The cabin is so tired, that it was just an awful experience. Like going inside an Almodovar movie :) The crew were pleasant, the flight was not even a third full, however, those interiors leave a lot to be desired.
    I just wish JU didn't use those planes in regular traffic - again, such a disgrace to the brand.

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    Replies
    1. "Hubs" use 737 relics :D

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    2. The replacement has already begun, YU-ANJ was retired and was replaced by YU-APK. Why invest in new interiors when planes are slowly being retired? It's a misplaced investment. Don't forget JU has 9 A319, 2 A320 and 1 A330 that were added in a bit more than six years. For an airline with limited resources that's not too bad.

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    3. Why use that plane in regular traffic at all? I don't mind the age of the plane - but do invest into it looking nice. It gives the impression that nothing has been touched since the maiden flight. Actually, not true. They removed the old CRT TV sets - you can identify their positions by the plastic panels 'covering' the holes...

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    4. Because they have pilots for those that need to fly somewhere in winter time. Also during winter many of their A319s and A320s undergo regular maintenance. That is why an A320 is currently flying out of INI.

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    5. For example YU-AND is in much better condition. YU-ANJ had the same cabin like AND, those LH old Recaro seats. Why they do not put those seats in ANI or ANK, it is minimal investment, they already have those seats. I do not have anything against those planes, but some minimal investment will be big improvement in passenger satisfaction.

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    6. This portal talked about Boeing fleet being retired by 2020 and donating YU-AND to the museum. It is almost 2020. Unless two additional A319 join the fleet by spring I don't see how will they retire Boeings.

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    7. I flew on YU-ANK to TXL earlier this month. What a time capsule - both the plane and the destination terminal. The flight was full albeit it was Tuesday morning.

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    8. 320 never flew out of INI. It is a mix of 2 319's rotating from time to time, APD and APK.

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    9. A320 literally flew out of INI recently for about a week.

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  5. Veljko, thanks for this great report, after reading it, I feel like I have experienced that flight to Milan personally :)

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  6. Great report. I understand your feelings towards 737. I have the same, and also to good old Dc9. Those were good times and flights.

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  7. This high quality 3H9 aircraft was ordered by Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito in 5 October 1977 in Ohrid meeting, according to Boeing order book and delivered as new aircraft in 12.11.1986 reg. YU-ANK.
    At 31.10.1999 was sold to Macedonian airlines.
    At 01.11.2005 the aircraft was sold back to old owners JAT Airways.
    From 01.07.2014 this aircraft was rebranded as Aviolet.
    From 1986 to 2005 all aircraft crew was macedonian nationality,from 2005 it is all serbian crew.

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