TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Skopje - Belgrade

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Written by Bowden Granville

Flight JU163 Skopje - Belgrade Nikola Tesla
Air Serbia ATR72-500 YU-ALT
15:05 – 16:15 (actual 15:27-16:20)
February 07, 2020

After four wonderful days in Skopje catching up with old friends it was time to continue my journey up to Belgrade. Traditionally I would have taken the bus from trips such as this, however the bus between Skopje and Belgrade is around 7 hours and means one loses the best part of the day.

I booked the one-way flight with Air Serbia around a month before flying. Interestingly the price fluctuated. One day it was around £69 one-way and the next day it was £41. I booked it for £41 (48 euro or 5.700 Serbian dinars) which I think was very good value in comparison to a bus ticket. I have no idea why the price fluctuated so much online, however, I was happy to secure a good price.

I arrived at Skopje’s airport at 12:30 as the friend who dropped me off had to return to work. I noticed when I arrived that public transportation to the airport is very poor. A bus apparently runs a few times a day to the city centre, but this didn’t seem at all clear.

Arriving so early gave me plenty of time to experience this small and modern airport. The terminal building is spacious and very easy to navigate. I used the self-check in kiosk to print off a boarding pass. There was only one kiosk it seemed, and a gentleman flying to Zagreb on Croatia Airlines was ahead of me. The process of printing it was very fast and easy.

After getting the boarding pass I proceeded upstairs to the security control. There was no wait at all and the security staff seemed very pleasant and efficient.

After security I decided I would check out the Skopje’s business class lounge. This cost 24 euros. As I had two and a half hours to kill until take off, I thought it would be a nice treat. The lady at the front desk was very pleasant and within a minute I was inside the lounge. I’ve read reviews being critical of the simplicity of the lounge however for me it was fine. The lounge has views of the runway, however due to the jet bridges it’s not possible to see landings as flights tend to land from the south at Skopje. I helped myself to some beers and sandwiches. The sandwich was pleasant enough and there was a fully stocked bar with wines and spirits. I sat on one of the comfy chairs and read a book and enjoyed the view.




The airport was fairly quiet. When I arrived several Wizz Air flights had just taken off so there were no aircraft at all on the apron. Slowly I was joined by a few other people in the lounge. The afternoon flights were to depart to Belgrade and Zagreb around the same time. I monitored the inbound flight from Belgrade which overflew Kosovan airspace as it made its descent into Skopje.


The inbound flight landed on time and passengers were called to the gate at around 14:30. The ATR was parked on a remote stand that was accessed by going down an escalator to the ground level. An orderly line formed for boarding and the passengers seemed to be a mixture of nationalities. I noticed at least five or six Dutch speakers in the line to board.


After a very short bus transfer we boarded the 21-year-old ATR. As passengers were entering the aircraft the ground crew removed the larger trolley cases that some people had (mine included) to be put into the hold. I was happy to do this as I didn’t want to have to fight my way to finding a place in the small overhead storage that an ATR has.




The flight was almost totally full. Although I didn’t get up during the 52-minute flight I could only see 1 free seat. The two female cabin crew were pleasant if not particularly smiley or talkative. The legroom and seat were acceptable for the short flight. Certainly, more comfortable than many buses that make the run up to Belgrade.

Take off towards the north was around 20 minutes after the scheduled time. During this slight unexplained delay, a Croatia Airlines Dash landed from Zagreb (9A-CQD) which at 11 years old is a veritable youngster in Ex-Yugoslav aircraft.



Service was the usual Air Serbia mini bottle of water and a cookie. For a very short flight this was fine. I think that for a longer flight this is rather miserable, however in the modern world of aviation every penny counts, I guess. I didn’t see anybody buy anything from the cabin crew who were especially stony-faced throughout the service.


After what seemed like no time at all it was clear we were beginning our descent into Belgrade. Dusk was approaching and the sky was full of dramatic fluffy clouds. The approach into Belgrade from the south is always a treat. This time I was seated on the left-hand side of the aircraft which gives slightly less interesting views. Avala Tower and Ada were visible on approach. We touched down 5 minutes after the scheduled time.


I was reunited with my suitcase right away and all passengers boarded a bus to be driven to the passport control/transfer doors on the ground floor. As we entered the building, I noticed that I was one of only 6 passengers to proceeded to passport control. This means around 60 people connected from Skopje to elsewhere on Air Serbia’s evening wave that was about to get underway.


Passport control took literally seconds and within 10 minutes of landing I was waiting outside the terminal building for the bus 72 to central Belgrade.


Air Serbia’s product was totally fine. The price and ease of booking on their website was all good. So good in fact I booked them again for the summer. Routing Tirana-Belgrade-Split including a 25 hour stopover in Belgrade for 98 euros.


Share your travel experience by submitting a trip report to exyu@exyuaviation.com


Comments

  1. Anonymous09:11

    Really, really nice trip report, thank you. I also like the fact you included many pictures which is always nice. I am also impressed by JU that they had a full flight, from what we read on here people claimed they struggle in SKP. Maybe JP's bankruptcy helped them?

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  2. Anonymous09:16

    How much is the bus from Skopje? Seven hours is just too long though.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:12

      1450MKD (23€) cost the non-stop ones which take about 6 hours but these are always night buses SKP-BEG( they depart BEG in the afternoon). The trip report-guy was obviously looking at travelling during the day where only Nis Ekspres is an option and they really take 7.30 hours (incl TurboFolk)

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:51

      Is it because Nish Express stops along the way? I know they have Nish-Belgrade non stop each hour but I don't know if it's the same bus that comes from SKP.

      Still, I wonder if JU manages to keep prices on this level and if more people find out about them, if they might actually get more locals to fly rather than to take the bus.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous10:07

    cheers for the report

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  4. Anonymous10:08

    The airport in Skopje is VERY far from the city and transportation isn't at all convenient.

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  5. This is a very good trip report Bowden. Your syntactic is very good and it was like I was reading a lightweight short story. Maybe you should be a writer. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prepelica14:46

      Completely agree. Great trip report, really enjoyed it reading!

      Delete
  6. Anonymous12:10

    Correction: ASL162 does not overfly Kosovo airspace. The website is showing you the estimated position of the flight since it wasnt being tracked at the time.

    ReplyDelete

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