Travelling amid a pandemic from Belgrade to New York

TRIP REPORT | INDEX


Flight: JU500
Aircraft: A330-200 (YU-ARA)
Date: September 9, 2020

I haven’t flown with Air Serbia in almost year and my first long haul flight during the corona era was from Belgrade to New York last week with the airline. 

The Wednesday flight departs in the morning, just before 8AM so I had to be at the airport relatively early. When I entered the terminal, it was quite busy, taking into account the circumstances. There was a very large queue of people checking in for Air Cairo’s flight to Hurghada. The Air Serbia check-in desks were not as busy. Before corona, there used to be a big wave of Air Serbia flights at that time in the morning. Nevertheless, flights to New York have a set of dedicated check-in desks and there were a lot of people there. While I was waiting to check-in I noticed many foreigners, some even speaking French and German. I’m not sure if these people spent two weeks in Serbia so they could fly out to the US. There also seemed to be a considerable number of Americans.

Long line for check-in to Hurghada on Air Cairo

General Air Serbia check-in desks


Dedicated New York check-in desks

After waiting a few minutes for some people to check-in in front of me, I finished the formalities quickly and headed to passport control. There is a dedicated lane for business class passengers, so this process was quick too. Before I headed to the lounge, I walked around a bit. It was nice to see that all the stores at the airport, including duty free, were open. Sections of the airport are closed off for reconstruction - part of the duty free, Belgrade Airport lounge and one of the cafés which have been temporarily relocated.

Departure board

Gate for our New York flight was still closed at the time


The transfer desk was busy

Social distancing signs

Hand sanitiser dispensers

After a quick tour of the airport I headed to the Air Serbia Lounge. There were just a few people there. At the front desk I was informed that someone would come to tell me when I should head to the gate as no announcements are made inside the lounge. Due to corona, there was no buffet, but you could order a la carte dining. The choice of food for the morning consisted of scrambled eggs, omelette or club sandwich. I wasn’t really hungry, so I just had a juice.










The toilet facilities include showers. Everything was clean and spotless.




After a while I headed to the C5-C6 gate where our A330 was waiting. There was a long line of passengers waiting to clear security, although there was a separate lane for business class passengers.




Our gate had a nice view of the terminal expansion taking place. Shortly after I passed security, the boarding announcement was made. Business class passengers had a dedicated air bridge and boarded through the C6 gate, while economy through C5.

View of the terminal expansion

C5 - C6 gate 

The flight this morning was mostly full, as you can see from the seating map below (the blue seats were occupied).




I selected to sit at the far right row because it has more privacy and I would recommend it to anyone flying solo. The configuration in the business class cabin is a generous 1-1-1. Waiting at the seat was a pillow, blanket, amenity kit, noise cancelling headphones and a bottle of water.







Seat controls

Seat view


All throughout boarding there were promotional videos of Serbia playing on the PTVs, as well as a nice timelapse video of Air Serbia’s A330 being painted. 



I was greeted by one of the crew at my seat and asked if I wanted a pre-departure drink. I had an orange juice, which, to my surprise, was freshly squeezed. I was also handed a disinfectant wipe. 


Shortly after, the crew came to take meal orders. There were no menus distributed due to corona, which I found pointless considering there is a new edition of the inflight magazine in each seat, so I don’t see there being a genuine concern for people touching paper. Still, there is a menu online on Air Serbia’s website and the crew recited to each passenger the choices you can see below:





The crew also asked each passenger when they wanted their meal, as there is a dine on demand concept.

Afterwards, the safety demonstration was done. I was surprised they didn’t play a video but did the actual demo. On the return flight they just played the video. The crew made the welcome announcements afterwards during which they said that due to the coronavirus, service would be limited in economy class and after the meal and drink service, other drinks and snacks would be available for passengers in the galleys.

Safety demo

We departed on time and were off to New York.


The in-flight entertainment system is a real weakness on what I think is generally a very good product for a European airline. There were just 8 Hollywood movies and 4 TV shows. There was a greater choice of Serbian movies and TV shows, but I think they are generally lacking in this area. Also, they should update information about their in flight meals and service in the “about” section as it still refers to the pre-hybrid model service levels and mentions flights to Abu Dhabi.





Before my meal was served, I was given a drink of choice and some warm mixed nuts. Afterwards, I had my meal served. Although it doesn’t look so appealing as I took the photos with my phone and it was dark in the cabin as the crew shut the blinds, the food was very tasty especially the main. I had the tortilla. 




The meal was cleared very quickly after I finished. I have to commend the crew, which was very proactive, circulating the cabin, clearing tables as soon as the passengers finished and they were very polite and cordial, addressing each passenger by their last name as well. I was asked if I wanted some coffee or tea afterwards, and although I passed, the crew said I should inform them if I would like anything else.

I was quite tired due to the early start and I fell asleep quickly afterwards. The seats are comfortable and completely lie-flat. The cabin was dark with some mood lighting so it was good for sleeping.



When I woke up I connected onto the wifi. The wifi was quick but the pricing for the offered megabytes is a bit expensive in my opinion compared to say Middle Eastern carriers.



There is one forward toilet for the business class cabin, which was clean and had the basics you would expect.



I had a snack halfway through the flight - cheese and crackers and some fruit. 


Before landing, we were given the new corona arrival document we had to fill out. The crew was also proactive in asking passengers if they wanted anything to eat or drink before landing.

We arrived in New York ahead of schedule. Terminal 4 was completely deserted upon arrival. I never passed immigration at JFK as quickly as I did this time around. The officer just asked if I had been to any of the restricted countries in the last two weeks (EU/Schengen, China, Brazil or Iran), scanned my passport and stamped it. The bags came out quickly and I was on my way to the city.

Being the era of corona, I didn’t know what to expect service-wise but I must say it was up to standard and not much different then before. It’s nice to see that Air Serbia did not downgrade on its catering or service offer at all. Of course, I don’t have to mention that everyone wore masks on the flight which are mandatory.

If it would be of interest, I can do a review for the return New York - Belgrade flight. Service on this flight was a bit more elaborate since it’s was an evening/night flight and I have some better quality shots.


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


Comments

  1. Anonymous09:16

    Very nice report. it will be nice if you can share with us report of the return flight.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous09:59

    Very nice report. Please, do the return flight also.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous12:08

    Great report, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jatovac12:45

    Awesome report, great that there are so many pictures, we love that. And yes, please do the return flight report

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dedicated airbridge for just 11 business passangers. I wonder what economy peplo think about it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:51

      They probably think they should book business class the next time.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous13:11

      Ili u naj manju ruku,plate prioritetno ukrcavanje.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous16:30

      For what you pay for business class a dedicated air bridge is not uncalled for. I save a few dollars and continue to fly economy. I do use seatguru and have gotten some extra legroom on a few of my flights. JU is now the most cost effective way to the region via NYC to BEG.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for such an insight into top product of Air Serbia in these harsh times for civil aviation.

    If I may ask, has the Corona affected the price of the C class ticket or is it still around 2500€ return?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous16:51

      Or it could be business class upgrade? If so, how much is a winning bid for a business class upgrade in the time of corona?

      BTW great report, very detailed. For many Air Serbia is the best choice for flying out of Europe to New York during pandemic and this report will give them info on what to expect.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous17:07

      You don't get seat selection and I don't think you get lounge access either with paid upgrades.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous17:08

      @Miroslav M from what I see on their site, the prices are the same.

      Delete
  7. Anonymous15:24

    Packed economy for 9h in Corona times. Doesn't seem nice at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous15:26

      The only way to have effective social distancing on a planes is to have no one next to you, no one in front of you and no one behind you. In that case all airlines could stop flying.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous16:12

      I know right, he should have rented a private jet instead....smh

      Delete
    3. Anonymous20:25

      But still it is not nice.

      Delete
    4. What is not nice about it??? You are in the same aircraft where you are exposed to 9 hours air circulation with regardless how many people is on. Might as well make those aircraft as busy as possible and make some money . AirSerbia has shown in the last year or so how important JFK is, not just in passenger prospective but cargo seems to be a big money maker as well. People are still jealous about JU service to JFK for no reason, and putting such a comments is too funny.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous14:42

      Other airlines are also selling all rows and all seats in Corona times. Montenegro, Croatia and Trade Air too. If that's not nice, don't fly.

      Delete
  8. Excellent and informative. I wonder if JU raised their prices for this route given that it is in high demand.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous19:01

    It is so funny that now Europeans need to fly through BEG to get to JFK. Of course they can do it through IST as well but BEG is the closest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous19:11

      +1

      Delete
    2. Anonymous20:26

      Most immportant thing is price.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous20:26

      Between the two at the moment I would choose JU, considering you get a bottle of water and a sandwich on long haul TK flights now.

      Delete
    4. Nemjee07:49

      A few days ago a friend of mine flew ORD-BEG via IST and he said never again. Bad service, overbooked flight so chaos at check-in, took them 90 minutes to reach the desk, his bag was never put in the system and got lost in ORD. I don't know how as it should be a major security breach. So on and so forth. Now TK has become even less generous with onboard wifi, if you are in business you no longer get unlimited access.

      His father flew on KL to BEG from ORD and no problems whatsoever. Unfortunately JU cooperates with B6 which has just one daily departure to ORD from JFK- at 06.00. You have to spend the night there which isn't appealing to many.

      Delete
  10. Nice report man.

    ReplyDelete
  11. very nice report thanks !!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous22:21

    Must be nice - not so great for the rest of us who are in economy - my experience from London to Belgrade recently. The plane in fact did not have any separated cabins and every seat was taken.

    The crowning glory? At check in at Heathrow they forced me to check my carry on. Arrived in Belgrade to wait an hour for my bag which never arrived. It was complete chaos, no one from the airline spoke English. If a fellow passenger had not helped, I may still be waiting in the airport.

    There were no queues so it was a massive crush to the windows to fill a lost bag form. They left over half of the passengers' luggage in London. Do not fly this airline. Turkish Airlines is much more civilized and always compensates for errors.

    ReplyDelete

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