Travelling amid a pandemic from Belgrade to Milan


Written by Nemanja Kutlešić

Flight: JU 540 (Air Serbia)
Route: Belgrade (BEG) – Milan Malpensa (MXP)
Trip date: July 1, 2020
Equipment: Boeing 737-300 (Aviolet livery)

This was my first flight in quite a while, and it was Air Serbia’s first scheduled service to Italy following the first peak of the pandemic. The service to Milan was scheduled to depart at 07h10 on July 1, the very first day from which residents from Serbia were allowed to travel restriction-free to the EU.

I had to come back to my second home in Italy for administrative reasons, so I needed to travel on the first possible date. Due to a last-minute cancellation from Sofia to Rome, which would have suited me more, I opted for the flight to Milan the very evening before the departure, and the one-way ticket cost me just over 100 EUR for the Economy Standard fare with one piece of checked-in luggage, which seemed quite reasonable. I would return later on from Rome on Bulgaria Air, so I did not need a return leg ticket.

Vinci Airports asks passengers to come at least 3 hours prior to their departure now due to the pandemic, so I expected some sort of check to be performed on passengers. However, not even the temperature was measured, not to mention that many passengers were not wearing masks on my arrival at Belgrade Airport.

Unlike some airports in the region, such as Skopje and Pristina, passengers are allowed to bring friends and family to Belgrade Airport to see them off. This morning, Air Serbia’s flights to Milan, Prague and New York departed at roughly the same time, along with a Wizz Air flight to Dortmund. Counting in the relatives, the check-in hall was crowded enough. All flights for the day were scheduled to go ahead as planned, except for a Wizz Air service to Malta in the evening, which was cancelled.

My documents were checked by Air Serbia agents and my boarding pass was issued quickly enough. The gate for departure was C1, which I was happy about as we would be departing just near the JFK flight (C5).

Boarding pass for my flight. Gate C1, boarding time 06h10.

Passport control went much quicker than I thought it would, as the largest portion of people at the airport were not actually travelling. The officer wore a face mask, but no gloves. Once through, the airport felt much less crowded. I ventured to a seating area between C1 and C5 gates so I could oversee the departure of the JFK flight. It was due after mine, so, unfortunately, I didn’t see the take-off.

After the passport control, Vinci has thoughtfully signposted the seats so there is one empty seat between each occupied seat. Also, in shops (I went to the pharmacy), the floor had stickers pointing out places to stand so as to respect social distancing. At least there was something. No hand sanitiser in sight though.

Most passengers at the airport were bound for JFK. There was quite a bit of transfer passengers, who were quite confused and navigated to the transfer desk by an airport staff member who spoke bad English.

Air Serbia aircraft at C3 and C5 gates. In the background, tail of A330 bound to New York, still in the Serbia Creates livery

Our ride for the day was one of the three old Boeings 737-300s in Aviolet livery, which I was not too happy about. The aircraft then turned out not to be that bad once inside, in any case, the flight was not too long. We were handed bottles of Iva junior water after boarding (I still do not understand why it has to be junior) and self-declaration forms for entering Italy.

The self-declaration forms for entering Italy were in accordance to a decree issued in March. Needless to say, there were at least two newer ones after that, but Air Serbia staff told me they knew nothing about them. Many passengers struggled with the forms as they did not speak English and had no pens. I still wonder how many microbes could have circulated on that one pen that went around the gate waiting area.

The cabin load factor was actually quite the opposite of what I expected, based on the fact I bought the ticket the night before. All window seats of the Boeing were occupied, as well as some aisle seats.

Italy issued a new regulation that no hand luggage could be transported within the aircraft’s overhead lockers, which was not quite obeyed on this flight. Many small suitcases (some of them not so small) quickly filled the overhead lockers throughout the aircraft.

We departed on time. The flight was itself uneventful, and the service did not much differ from the regular Air Serbia service I experienced prior to pandemic on their Belgrade and Nis flights. The crew wore masks and gloves during the flight, though.

On arrival to Malpensa, it was raining. We were given yet another form to fill in, this time by the Italian authorities, and I cleared immigration quickly enough. Some people after me had problems with entering as they claimed they could enter for tourism starting from July 1st, trusting some inaccurate media reports that were all around Serbia at the time.

We had to wait for our luggage for at least 40 minutes. Malpensa Airport seems to be disinfected regularly, as seen on the photograph below. Hand sanitiser was provided at some places, but not as frequently as I would like.

Cleaning services at Malpensa Airport

Overall, it was quite an uneventful flight, with no inconveniences one may encounter travelling amid a pandemic. I would (and undoubtedly will) fly Air Serbia again, as I was able to secure a ticket quickly when I needed it. They could update their forms for entering Italy though.

On the other hand, I do wish Belgrade Airport took a bit more precaution when social distancing is in question. Hopefully they will, especially given that the number of cases in Serbia is soaring again.
Happy travels to anyone who needs to travel right now.

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  1. Anonymous09:08

    I am sorry but how can BEG enforce more social distancing than what they already did? They can block some seats but they can't police around the terminal making sure there are at least 2 meters between people. And what would be the point? They make sure there is social distancing and then you end up on a full flight where everyone is packed next to each other.

  2. Nice trip report, but next time try to include some cabin/window shots.

  3. Anonymous11:33

    What kind of event do you expect on such a short flight?

    1. Anonymous16:21

      -Engine failure
      -Emergency descent
      -Diversion to Venice
      -Pilot incapacitation
      -or at least severe turbulence :)

  4. Anonymous14:01

    Is check in now at the new desks or is it at the old ones (blue ones)

  5. Anonymous15:13

    You should have masked all the personal data. It is simply unsafe to publish your PNR on line

  6. Anonymous17:35

    It makes me really angry to read that masks are not mandatory inside the terminal .
    Obviously in Serbia there is neither common sense nor discipline .
    Same disastrous situation like in the USA .
    No wonder that more and more countries ban flights from Serbia and rightfully so !

    1. Anonymous17:39

      Masks are mandatory inside the terminal. I flew from Belgrade last week and everyone was wearing one. Also no one other than people travelling could enter the terminal. I guess I had a different experience to the person in this report.

      Also, since you are obviously not from Serbia. Masks are mandatory everywhere in Serbia. Inside and outside.

    2. Anonymous17:54

      If you are right then i will take my strong words back and apologize .

      Would be really interesting to know what other people have seen and experienced at Belgrade Airport .
      I can only advise foreigners not to be such idiots like us here in the US .
      Much too many here refuse wearing masks with the result that people are literally dying like the flies .

  7. It wonder what is the feeling to come to the airport at 4 o'clock in the night (three hours before flight at 7) and to pass quickly through check-in and control.


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