TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Istanbul - Belgrade


I recently flew from Istanbul to Belgrade with Air Serbia. I purchased the ticket just a few days prior to my flight as my plans had changed. Unfortunately, at the time of booking economy was sold out and there were only two seats left in business. So, I purchased the business class ticket, which was a one way ticket as I was not returning to Istanbul. It wasn’t as expensive as I expected it would be despite the plane being full.

I arrived at Istanbul Airport exactly 2.5 hours prior to my flight just as check-in was opening. There was already a line of people waiting but thankfully no one at the business class counter. I checked in quickly, was given a window seat in the first row and went to passport and security. As it turns out, a year and half after Air Serbia started flying to Istanbul, the airline still hasn’t found the time or seems to have bothered to contract a lounge for its business class passengers or arrange for its passengers to use the fast-track lane for passport and security check, which took half an hour at a very busy Istanbul. Part of purchasing a ticket in business class should be that you can have some benefits from it at the airport too. So that was a disappointment.

As I waited at a crowded Istanbul Airport (it was a Sunday), around an hour prior to departure I checked if the plane was on its way to Istanbul. It turned out it hadn’t even left Belgrade. I checked what was happening with the aircraft and noticed it arrived on time from its previous destination which was a charter from Antalya. So, it was delayed on the ground in Belgrade for some reason. The departure screen in Istanbul kept delaying the flight by 20 minutes every 20 minutes.

Around 30 minutes after we were supposed to depart, the plane showed up in Istanbul. It was already crowded around the gate. There were a lot of Turks, Russians and a surprising number of Croatian passengers on the flight. A young Croatian guy started talking to me, asking if I think he could make his connection to Zagreb. Eventually boarding started (of course there was no priority boarding or anything of the sort, everyone just ran into the plane) and a few of the Zagreb bound passengers started talking to the crew upon entry inquiring about their onward connection. The two female cabin crew in front of the plane seemed nice and told them they hoped we would make it to Belgrade so they can connect.

The business class section consisted of a single row, with the middle seat blocked. There was no curtain or divider between business and economy, I guess they took it down because of the previous charter. Business class was also full. There was a Russian lady and I assume her child on one side, and me and another Serbian passenger on the other.

Even though everyone seemed to be on board and no one was boarding the plane anymore, we waited and waited at the gate. After 45 minutes of waiting on a hot plane, the pilot came on to say that some passengers haven’t shown up and that we are waiting for them. Fifteen minutes later, they closed the door and we started to push back (no other passenger showed up). The crew announcements on Air Serbia are now pre-recorded so there was no apology from the crew for the late arrival of the plane.

We took off from Istanbul and some 15 minutes later the crew distributed a menu for this short flight, which was a nice touch. The cabin crew member asked what I would like. I ordered the fish, but she said they were out of this option. Considering there were only 4 passengers, I wondered how many meals they loaded in the first place. So, as an alternative I had the hamburger that was the only choice left. I asked for a coke to drink and was asked if I wanted some ice. I got a single mini ice cube and drinks were brought out after everyone almost finished their meals. It’s not that important but I seriously wonder if there is a reason Air Serbia is bothering with having an inter-European business class.

The food was fine. The meat was ok, the chips, as one would expect in an airplane, were quite awful  but considering it is a short flight it’s nice they offer a choice in the first place. However, personally, I would rather Air Serbia invested a bit in the presentation of their meals instead of offering multiple meal choices. Better do one thing right. For example, compare this meal to the one offered by Lufthansa between Belgrade and Frankfurt or Belgrade and Munich and how they are presented.

This was a former Adria plane, and it was interesting to note that the first row has tables installed in front of the seats but there is a sticker saying not to use them and to instead use the ones in the armrest. Adria also used to have pop-out screens above every few rows but the plane doesn’t have them anymore.

Around 30 minutes into the flight the pilot came over the PA and finally apologised for the delay, saying the plane was late from Belgrade due to “non-aviation related reasons”, whatever that means. It certainly wasn’t the weather as it was a sunny clear day and over 30C in both Istanbul and Belgrade and all the way en route the weather was good.

We made up some time and landed in Belgrade with a one and half hour delay. The two cabin crew members in front seemed genuinely concerned about the passengers who were about to miss their connecting flights and I could hear them talking (they didn’t close the curtain between the cabin and galley) how it is so stupid that we were delayed, and they hope the onward flights would be waiting for the passengers. As soon as the doors opened the purser immediately asked the ground staff member whether Zagreb left. When he said it did, she asked about Tivat (there seemed to be connecting passengers there too) and he said it left as well. Both crew members were visibly disappointed about it.

Generally, I wouldn’t waste my money on an inter-European business class experience with Air Serbia. It really wasn’t worth it, especially with no lounge in Istanbul either.

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  1. Anonymous09:20

    Thank you for the detailed trip report. Air Serbia's service seems appalling. A few of my last flights with them were also a disappointment. I don't know what happened with them, a shame honestly.

    1. Anonymous11:52

      Was it because of the lost luggage? I read many people are complaining about that and kinda reminds me of Alitalia when Milano was their base back in the 2000's

    2. Anonymous12:11

      From what I heard luggage issue was resolved long time ago, now it's generally horrible customer service.

    3. Anonymous12:59

      But I read recent reviews on Trustpilot and TripAdvisor about luggage being lost. I personally feel they have a fleet issue and have expanded way beyond their capabilities and capacities. Remember Vueling a couple of years ago? They had huuuuge scandals with delays and lost luggage precisely because of the lack of planes. This also now explains why they needed that Czech 737 so badly.

    4. Anonymous13:40

      Who returned the A320 last year?

    5. Anonymous13:48

      Jiri personally insisted on returning the A320, he didn't want to take any risks, he wanted to play safe no matter what the cost is ... even leasing two ancient Czech 737s.

    6. Anonymous14:53


    7. Anonymous14:54

      Back in the era of Jat we are, only they're not Bulgarian but Czech.

      Does anyone have a cost comparison how that fared out vs. keeping the A320?

  2. Anonymous09:26

    Air Serbia needs to secure a spare plane all the time. Overstretching the fleet can only be more expensive especially if you are into connecting flights. In this case half of all passengers missed their connections due to very reluctant fleet policy of the airline.

    1. Anonymous09:46

      Well they got the second Czech 737 to replace YU-APE that was out of service. APE came back and the second 737 stayed. Only goes to show how badly their fleet is stretched.

  3. Аэrologic09:42

    It's really shocking they don't offer a business class experience including lounge for the price of a business class ticket, especially taking into account the delay.

    This case was reminiscent of an experience i had two years ago on a flight to Istanbul. On the New Year's Eve, their flight to Belgrade from Milan was delayed, then crew times expired, then the storm on approach and so on and so forth and as a result we landed with a delay of 3 hours.

    I had a connecting flight to Asia from SAW a few hours later (normally i would have 5 hours for that). I obviously missed the shuttle and had to pay the taxi an astronomical price to make it on time (around 100km distance from IST- SAW) with traffic jams.

    Air Serbia never took responsibility or offered compensation neither for the delay, saying they were late 'only' 2:45 (time at touchdown, not at gate) neither for the taxi expense.


    I never used Air Serbia after that.

    1. Anonymous10:02

      Unfortunately, your experience is not unique. A review of passenger comments / feedback on all of the various airline ratings sites reveals just how much things have deteriorated.

    2. Anonymous13:02

      This cannot be considered Business class at all. Burger and chips??? Really? It's better for them to stick to mono class as they already have a BoB service, paid extras, etc. Similar to Wizzair

    3. Anonymous22:39

      Wizz doesn't give you a bottle of water or snack. They don't care if you are thirsty or hungry unless you pay, so it's not similar to Wizz.

      In case you didn't read the trip report, this is what he literally wrote about the food: "The food was fine"

      Fine! If he was okay with the food, who are you to complain?

  4. Anonymous09:44

    I am sorry you had such an awful experience but you have to understand that all this is part of their strategic planning, a concept introduced and developed by the CCO Jiri Market.

    Every airline out there is fighting for the business class passengers by pampering them because they boost the yield of every flight. For JU it seems this makes no difference which is unfortunate.

    Vrati se Dane, sve ti je oprosteno.

    1. Anonymous09:58

      Yes, it is indeed a very different onboard product experience nowadays compared to how the product was under his watch. Somethings have sadly got worse over time

    2. Anonymous10:02

      There is no more unlimited cash to throw around.

    3. Nemjee10:03

      Dane had his flaws, and they were serious ones but one thing that man knew was presentation. JU crew was always well groomed and maintained, onboard product was good and quality standards were always met. On my last flight with JU one of the crew members had his tie loosened and top button unbuttoned. Looked like some waiter in a kafana on Ibarska magistrala.

    4. Anonymous10:07

      JU used to have a person in charge just for crew grooming and presentation. Their title was something like that. Don't know if they still have that. Probably not.

    5. Anonymous10:30

      It is not the biggest problem here that the plane was late or there was no meal offered. The problem is that if you apply to Air Serbia for a request for compensation in case of delay, which is an obligation under the law or you have another problem, reaction, comment on service, you will never get an answer, not to mention an apology. Of course Mr. Jiri Malek will continue with PR announcements that everything is doing fantastic according to his previous experience in Malev, Chezh Airlines and Alitalia.

  5. Anonymous10:59

    Dobar izveštaj a novi IST aerodrom izgleda fascinantno.Vidim da je pljuvačima JU tekst legao ko budali šamar.Meni samo nije jasno koji to zdrav razum rezerviše kartu u špicu sezone sa vremenom presedanja od 50 min.?Avion iz IST sleće u 16:20h a za ZAG poleće u 17:10h.

    1. Anonymous11:09

      Да ли сте ви свесни да ЈУ продаје такву везу што значи да је одговорна за реализацију исте. Ето прочитасмо да су сада и путници криви јер им је ЈУ понудила преседање од 50 минута иако је аеродромски минимум 45'.

      Па није народ крив што је ЈУ каснила и што је тај Загреб померен на 17.10 са 19.25 јер ЈУ нема авиона и мора да убаци још једну ротацију касније у 20.20.

      Друго, ви нападате такозване пљуваче али зар овакви чланци баш доказују да нешто озбиљно није у реду са ЈУ? Да су неопходне суштинске кадровске реформе јер ове које сада господаре очигледно нису способне да воде фирму ка ведријем небу.

    2. Anonymous11:13

      To je konekcija od 50 minuta koja je najnormalnija. JU prodaje kartu Istnabul - Zagreb sto znaci da smatraju da je konekcija sasvim dovoljna - i tokom leta. Sta, sada su putnici krivi sto je leto i Er Srbija nije u stanju da ispostuje sopstveni red letenja? I jel treba da hvalimo Er Srbiju za ovo? Ne vezano za kasnjenje ovo sto nude putnicima biznis klase je ispod svakog nivoa. Mogli su makar da se potrude da obezbeded salon putnicima. Nije to mnogo tesko.

    3. Anonymous11:19

      Најгори део целе приче је тај што се представља сарадња са ТК као спектакуларна а онда им ТК није одобрио коришћење свог салона. Стварно би било добро да ЈУ појасни све ово како би се овакве ситуација избегле у будућности. Додуше то је опет домен комерцијалног директора, Јири Малека, тако да је изгледа сулудо очекивати било шта... позитивно.

    4. Anonymous11:22

      Sve avio kompanije prodaju karte sa konekcijom od 50 min. na Vašem zdravom razumu je da li će te u špicu sezone kupiti takvu kartu.Zadovoljni putnici obično ne ostavljaju komentare a takvih je kada je JU u pitanju neuporedivo više od ponekog nezadovoljnog putnika koji će požuriti da iskaže nezadovoljstvo,što je potpuno legitimno.

    5. Anonymous11:25

      Meni je LH prodala konekciju BEG-MUC-ORD sa 40 minuta. I ja i moj kufer smo stigli. E sada ako LH moze u MUC-u koji je ogroman onda stvarno ne vidim zasto je problem za JU. Ili je mozda i to sto druge kompanije ne nategnu saobracaj do pucanja? Da je JU imala rezervni A319 oni bi ga ubacili da odradi IST.

      p.s. 50 minuta za BEG je vise nego dovoljno

    6. Anonymous11:29

      Thing is even if the connection was 2 hours the passengers would be late anyway.

      Who is the idiot (11:22) writing this?

    7. Anonymous11:34

      Ako vec pricamo o zdravom razumu pa valjda on diktira da verujete kompaniji ako vam ona nudi presedanje od 50 minuta? Drugo vrlo je verovatno da su ovi Hrvati vec presedali u Beogradu i da su upoznati sa velicinom aerodroma.
      Smatram da se ovde JU jednostavno ne moze opravdati. Putovao sam i sa Jatom i sa ASL i stvarno su odlicno krenuli ali kvalitet je znacajno opao i vise ne obraca paznja na male detalje.

      Jedna mozda glupa stvar je sada sluze cips a ne daju vam vlazne maramice. Dakle sta da radim sa masnim prstima na kraju? Da ih brisem o tepih ili ocekuju da svih 144 putnika ide do toaleta da opere ruke?

    8. Anonymous11:39

      Ta ista LH je juče imala 3 lrta sa šnjenjem od pola sata i jedan od gotovo sat vremena.Teško da bi neko uhvatio konekciju od 40-50m in. sa ovim kašnjenjima. Ne možete generealizovati stvari na osnovu jenog iskustva.

    9. Anonymous12:02

      Ovo piše Idiot koji razmišlja svojom glavom i bez ikakvog interesa.

    10. Anonymous12:13

      Само што та иста Луфтика има неколико летова на дан ка скоро свим одредиштима. Путници који су пропустили лет за Загреб морали су да преноће у Београду.

    11. Anonymous12:26

      Noćenje u BEG je dobro za BDP Srbije.

    12. Anonymous14:06

      It's not good if it is paid for by a loss making public company.

      Talking of Lufthansa, fun fact, today's flight is operated by an A321 whose last flight was on 01.01.2021 again to BEG. I guess they brought it out of storage a day or two ago.

    13. Anonymous14:06

      *MUC-BEG-MUC that is

  6. Anonymous13:29

    Sounds really terrible. But to balance it out a bit, I flew business class from LHR to BEG in March and everything was great, and they had the fish :), which was delicious, as well as the cake. The crew was masterful, too.

    So I know they can do it. They just need to be more consistent, and plan their summer fleet much better.

  7. Happy camper14:58

    Неком се не допада Чех па је загадио коментаре својом фрустрацијом.

    1. Anonymous15:10

      Сви коментари против дотичног господина су праћени и поткрепљени чињеницама. Ја не видим шта је ту спорно. Друго очигледно је да је комерцијални сектор јако лоше вођен па не знам ко је крив за то ако не он као шеф комерцијале?

      Замолио бих вас за неки контра-аргумент ако није проблем али дај човече неке конкретне примере како би оповргнуо све шта су такозвани хејтери написали.

    2. Happy camper15:35

      Ово је трип рипорт а не место за некакав перформанс ривју менаџмента.

    3. Anonymous16:13

      Ово је ваздухопловни сајт где се дискутује о свим аспектима укључујући и менаџмент, то је пракса још из доба Јата.

  8. Anonymous15:17

    Who would have thought back in 2013 that by 2021 Air Serbia would have a worse onboard product than Jat Airways.

    1. Anonymous15:49

      Far from it, it's not worse. Jat had horrible onboard product.

    2. Anonymous16:08

      Not really, they offered a dedicated business class product that was separated from economy class. They offered a sandwich and free drinks in economy class. JU doesn't do any of that. So it unfortunately is worse.

    3. Anonymous18:57

      Please don't compare a new airline with Jat. Jat had a unique and distinguishable brand and had a more prestigious image. Everyone knew who they are. ASL is kinda known to be boutique and suddenly LCC airline married and then divorced with the Arabs. It's kinda crazy.
      Jat will be the name carried and remembered for a long time.

  9. Anonymous15:39

    Thank you for very detailed and objective report. It is interesting how demant to IST is enormous. I think that there are space for introducing flights to some other cities in Turkey, especially I think that for Air Serbia to Ankara, Izmir.. maybe even to Antalya, scheduled flights not just charters.

    OT: I have seen that airport Belgrade "upgraded" Tesla squer with additional interesting stuff about Nikola Tesla and as I recall that was apostrophed in one recent trip report and comment section like a big missing, so it seems that management is reading Ex yu. Nice move

    1. Anonymous17:23

      What does "apostrophed" mean?

  10. Anonymous16:01

    Bolna tacka kompanije su konstantna kasnjenja i to se ponavlja iz godine u godinu. Oni jednostavno nemaju kapacitet i resurse da okrenu avion za 50 min. Dok jedni putnici izadju, dok se ocisti, dok se natankuje gorivom tek onda pocinje boarding a to je vrlo cesto 5-10 min pred polazak. Bas prekljuce sam gledao OSL, ARN, SVO, CDG svi ti letovi krecu sa 20-30 minuta kasnjenja iz Beograda. u Nekim od tih metropola sa velikim aerodromima okretanje aviona traje i duze i eto kasnjenja i u povratku. Kad se jos doda da je onboard proizvod mizeran, jadan i bedan onda i ne cudi OS, LH, LX, SU, TK, AF preuzimaju i dobijaju poverenje putnika. Doduse sta se moze i ocekivati pa ne moze kompanija Air Srbija da bude nesto posebno i mimo drzave koju predstavlja a na zalost zna se kako nam je uredjena drzava. Pravilo je kupi kartu i izaberi prevozioca za novce koje si spreman potrositi i ne nadaj se nicemu vise sem da te prevezu od A do B.

    1. Anonymous16:11

      Zato su doneli odluku da se kao mera stednje avioni ciste na kraju dana mesto posle svake rotacije. Isto kao W6.

    2. Anonymous18:58

      jos vise bi mogli da ustede ako donesu odluku da ciste avion 1 nedeljno ali meni ne bi bilo prijatno da sednem u takav strokav avion. Meni nije jasno kako vi takve mere podrzavate kao normalne?!?

    3. Anonymous22:32

      Što se ne buniš kad Wizz isto radi sa čišćenjem? Kad oni to rade onda ti je normalno?

  11. Anonymous16:10

    Thank you for the good report, lot of interesting information for the travelers. It is more than substandard not to offer a lounge to premium passengers. Not only in Istanbul, they are still providing (if true at all) lounge at LHR at terminal 4, while they are now flying (for a year or so) from terminal 2 - unbelievable and useless.

    Regarding the fleet shortage and unprecedented WET lease of 2 (two) Check low class, cheap looking aircraft - just a coincidence that there are also some Checks in JU's management, not to name it.

  12. Anonymous16:33

    Is Air Serbia aware of the fact that they are competing against TK on this market? They are lucky the market is growing and that the Serbian government secured them a codeshare agreement with TK. Otherwise they would be crushed like in VIE, FRA and even ATH.

    1. Anonymous17:12

      They are not competing against Turkish airlines.
      Turkish airlines (Pegasus too) are not allowed increasing frequencies and capacity to Serbia by an agreement that can only be described as Closed Skies.
      You could it also call indirect sanctions.

  13. Anonymous17:08

    Unfortunately JU has again become a third world airline with no food choices, no lounges, missing baggage and missing connections.
    Also the fleet seems to be a collection of junk nobody else wanted.

    1. Anonymous18:36

      Don't exaggerate.

      Most of world's five star airlines are out Europe (West) and vice-versa.

    2. Anonymous18:44

      outside of*

    3. Anonymous19:02

      He was not exaggerating. Why don't you accept negative feedback as well? Go to any review website and read comments about lost luggage and connections. Clearly, there is an issue with the airline. Did you carefully see the report? Look what the author mentions about Business. They were barely 4 people and the airline told him there were no food options?!?!!!
      Wait, okay COVID but don't offer a product and rip off others if you're not ready to offer it. Just read the report, ffs.

    4. Anonymous22:11

      >Unfortunately JU has again become a third world airline with no food choices

      Food choices are available and some types can be preordered but you don't know anything about it. I was once told in Lufthansa business class they didn't have my choice. Does that mean LH is a third world airline? It is now?

      > no lounges, missing baggage and missing connections.
      Air Serbia does have lounges in BEG and many other airports. List of lounges is online, too bad you are illiterate. No airline ever had no lost baggage. This trip report didn't have a lost bag, so your comment about bags is pure hate. Missing connections also happen to all airlines that offer connections. Air Serbia operational statistics are actually above average, so it is less likely to lose connections with them than with most other airlines.