TRIP REPORT: Austrian, Belgrade - Sofia and back


Written by Nemjee

Good morning and welcome to my trip report.

About ten days ago I traveled to Sofia to visit some friends. I left Belgrade on Thursday and returned on Sunday.

Logically I planned on flying with Air Serbia as they were the fastest connection between the two cities. The flight between BEG and SOF takes around 40 minutes on the ATR. Unfortunately, at that time JU's SOF was extremely unreliable. A lot of flights were late while several of them were rescheduled to 15.30 or even 16.30 instead of 13.20.

As I was not going to stay long in Sofia, I decided to look for an alternative and I found Austrian Airlines. I flew with them some months ago and I really disliked the experience. That said, since then circumstances have changed so I decided to give them another try.

In all honesty, OS' schedule was fantastic. I left Belgrade at 07.00 and was in Sofia by noon while the flight back left Sofia at 19.00 and I was in Belgrade at 23.30. Even though I had to go through Vienna, this schedule actually gave me more time in Sofia which was, anyway, what I was looking for.

Anyway... as almost anyone knows by now, BEG is a mess due to ongoing construction. However, the situation isn't that bad once you prepare yourself and once you realize that the old open air parkings are no longer available.

This made me especially happy. Coffee Cake is a high quality (Greek) bakery which has several shops here in Belgrade. This one will be located between gates A1 and A2.

Now... the fool working on our gate forgot to announce that boarding had begun. So at 06.30 I looked at the screen and it said 'Gate Open.' Literally a few minutes later I looked again and it said 'Gate Closed.' I rushed to gate A4a and immediately told her that they forgot to announce that boarding had started. Naturally, this being BEG staff she started arguing with me that I was wrong and that she did it. Luckily for me, her colleague was nice enough to actually admit that she forgot to do it. I screened my boarding pass and went into a relatively empty bus. Within the next 5-6 minutes, another 20 something passengers ran down the stairs and entered the bus.

We were parked at the most remote remote stand which I personally did not mind since the weather was nice.

As it was almost 07.00, many flights had already left by now, but it was nice to see BEG quite busy.

Air Serbia's B733 for the summer, it had arrived the day before. I believe it entered service later on that day.

TK A321 which was diverted to ZAG the night before due to bad weather in BEG. Later on they returned to BEG and I suppose crew hours expired so they had to spend the night.

On the right, you can see Air Montenegro's E95 which was leased by JU to operate their morning flight to Zurich.

This time around the crew actually came around and offered water free of charge. I decided to purchase Almdudler for €3.

Complimentary service

When we arrived Vienna was very quiet. I believe we were among the first arrivals that morning.

Our A320 has just arrived from LCA <3

Regional hegemons in all of their glory

Overflying Belgrade, Milos Veliki and the town of Obrenovac.

Unlike our flight from Belgrade which had a LF of around 40%, our flight to Sofia was performing much better, around 85%.



SOF terminal 2.

This is what Sofia airport looks like inside. Terminal is absolutely horrible and it looks like a big bus station. Mind you, this is Terminal 2 which is supposed to be new and modern. Another thing which I found interesting is that arriving and departing passengers mix.

I honestly hope to God no airline plans on turning SOF into a transfer airport because they really do not have the facilities for such an adventure.

SOF does have a metro station and a ticket to downtown will cost you €0.80.

Sunday had arrived and it was time to head back home. As I was getting ready to leave my hotel, I decided to check the status of JU's flight. Today's flight was supposed to be operated by the 32 years old YU-ALP which left BEG right on time.

Then somewhere around Nis something happened and it returned to Belgrade.

SOF was cancelled that day and I supposed passengers were rebooked on their Monday flight which was leaving Sofia at 05.00 in the morning.

As the Polish saying goes: not my circus, not my monkeys.

My ride for today was at the gate. From what I remember LF was around 75%.

It was an A320 with sharklets and the new interior. I found the seats to be much more comfortable than the older ones.

There is also a USB port so you can recharge your device while using it.

After a bumpy take off, we flew north towards eastern Serbia then straight to Belgrade, entered Croatia, headed over Lake Balaton to Vienna. Flight time was around one hour and ten minutes. Flight was rather uneventful.

Our flight to BEG was onboard this E95 which they baptized Prague. It arrived some 15 minutes late from HAJ but they managed to turn it around in around 40 minutes and we left VIE with a minimal delay.

This flight was rather successful as it had 4 people in business class and around 95% in economy. Interestingly enough, on our flight there were quite a few Israeli passengers (3/4 passengers in business were speaking Hebrew) and I noticed around 10 or so boarding passes issued by SN.

My journey to Sofia ended where it began, at the most remote remote stand.

Deplaning took a bit longer as they were manually placing the stairs. After some 7-8 minutes they succeeded and we started coming out. There were two buses waiting for us and they took us to the terminal building.

We were taken to Gate A4 from where we took the stairs all the way up. I can't imagine this was fun for older passengers who had hand luggage. Anyway, once we were inside the terminal we were greeted by a horde of gasterbajters which was coming out of what seemed like a full A321 from Vaxjo. Air Serbia's Oslo flight had arrived at about the same time so the corridor started filling up. Passport control was packed and I expected the worst.

Luckily for me, all passport control booths were working so I was out of the terminal building really fast. I looked at my watch and it took me 15 minutes from deplaining to leaving the terminal building. This is impressive and it goes to show that the new set up at BEG is efficient and works. I guess people hate it because of all the walking which gives you the impression of a journey that never ends.

As far as Austrian Airlines go, after my disastrous experience the last time, this time around I actually enjoyed it much more. The mask mandate was suspended both for passengers and the crew. Flight attendants were much more pleasant, they were smiling and actually chattend and laughed with passengers. I know they get a lot of hate for their uniforms but I personally don't mind them. Their crew wears them nicely and they look tidy.

That said, the best thing about them is their timetable and a high number of frequencies they operate. This gives their passengers a lot of flexibility when booking their flights.

I don't think buy on board will stay and that at some point they will do what BA did and bring back some sort of free service, at least drinks and a snack. Their Melangerie menu is not the best, there aren't that many options to choose from and prices are quite high. Their app is useless and this time around I didn't even bother opening it.

Hope you enjoyed my trip report!

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  1. Anonymous09:21

    Nice trip report.

    SOF has a very nice metro connection. Hopefully BEG will have the same one day.

  2. Anonymous09:33

    No elevators, lifts, esalators etc for remote stand passengers arriving to A4 at Belgrade? You have to walk up two flights of stairs with carryons, baby strollers etc? C'mon tell me you are kidding me???

    1. Prepelica10:44

      I ad the same thought as I flew from Ljubljana on Friday. The similar situation is in Ljubljana too, if you are not using the bridge, you have to go two flights of stairs up, and then down for passport control. I am sure there is workaround/another route for disabled people, but it's not suboptimal experience for many elderly and others.

    2. Prepelica10:45

      "it is" instead of "it's not"

    3. Anonymous10:48

      I'm 99% sure that in Ljubljana there is elevator to the ground floor

    4. Nemjee13:21

      There might have been an elevator but I did not see it. I honestly hope that this won't be the final set up once the whole terminal is expanded and reconstructed. Especially since there is a growing number of remote stands at BEG.

    5. Anonymous18:07

      Escalator was working when deboarding from the bridge at new C gates. Don't know what remote stands process looks like at renovated A gates but forcing eveyone to walk all the way up is a major blunder. People in wheelchairs, families with cranky kids and others with mobility issues will cause jams for sure. Embarrassment for concessionaire.

    6. Nemjee18:20

      Actually I don't know why they didn't just take us straight to the passport control. The door should be there. After all, that was the standard operating procedure before reconstruction began.

    7. Anonymous20:55

      I think security check for transit passengers is the answer why direct passport control access is not an option at the moment for passengers arriving from planes parked at remote stands.

  3. Anonymous09:35

    Nice comment about regional hegemons :-). Good to see improoved Austrian expirience

    I wonder why didn't you use a car, it tooks roughly the same trip time and gives you more flexibility?

    1. Anonymous09:44

      Not everyone has a car?

    2. Anonymous09:46

      Was gonna comment "not everyone drives" 😄😄

    3. Anonymous09:55

      Or maybe the bus since we are in the Balkans!

    4. Nemjee13:24

      Honestly, I didn't even consider taking my car because I don't know what the parking situation was going to be like. Like this it was easier, I relaxed and didn't have to worry about border crossings, parking fees, petrol etc.

      I do hope that one day JU will have more convenient times to other regional destinations (OTP, SOF, IST, SKP...) like they do for TGD, LJU and ZAG. If there was a morning departure to Sofia then that would be ideal, especially as they could also offer connections from JFK.

  4. Anonymous09:47

    Just flew on Austrain, Brussels-Vienna and no service was offered except chocolate before landing (but no water). I guess it varies from flight to flight.

    1. Nemjee13:25

      I guess it depends from the crew. I was really lucky this time around as their crew is usually not pleasant and nice.

  5. Veoma lep opis utisaka sa kratkog leta BEG - SOF - BEG.
    Pogotovu detaljan opis autora teksta Nemjee. Jos tako bogato potvrdjen lepim fotografijama. Ipak posebnu paznju je posvetio Sofijskom terminalu Dva. Neznam kakva je oprema ugradjena u njega, ali odaje utisak naprednijih terminala iz osamdesetih godina proslog veka. U nadi da ce buduci Beogradski Hab biti dostojniji dvadeset prvog veka.
    I ako je izgradnja i dogradnja i konverzija Tesle na polovini obnove, u veri sam da ce to postati aerodrom savremene infrastrukture. Uklopljen u savremene mogucnosti razvoja decenija pred nama. Ipak jedna mogucnost Sofijskog aerodroma me je odusevila. A to je cena kostanja metroa izmedju tog aerodroma i centra Sofije. Celih osamdeset Centi! I posle gradnje zeleznice do Beogradskog aerodroma, takva cena u Srbiji je "nemoguca misija."
    Kao i vecina aerodroma u svetu, oni su "krave muzare" za mnoge sluzbe koje ih opsluzuju. Bezskrupulozni deo bratijeTaksista na Prvom mestu. Onih sto vuku za rukav i govore. 'Ajde zemljace izvoli" ... Zivim u veri da ce zakon i Aerodrom Beograd jednom dovesti bezskrupolozne u izvrsenje zakona i pristojnog zivljenja.
    Putujuci svet to zasluzuje i na ovoj rastucoj vazdusnoj luci Srbije. Jos lednom pohvale autoru utisaka leta.
    I Administratoru zbog objave.
    Rodney Marinkovic and Aviation Enthusiast Associate Group. 😀✈🌐🛫

    1. Anonymous11:10

      Ako bi BG voz sutra bio uveden do Aerodroma, cena bi bila 90 dinara, ili 0,77 EUR.

    2. Nemjee13:33

      Хвала! Искрено, мислим да је прерано да се закључи какав ће београдски аеродром бити јер је јако мали део заправо завршен. Мене највише занима шта ће бити са централним делом (Теслин трг или како већ).

      Што се таксиста тиче, у Софији је иста ситуација. Чим сам изашао прво шта сам чуо је било 'taxi my friend?'
      To сам још само искусио у Букурешту што се нашег региона тиче.

      Како су ми рекли, држава је ограничила цену карте до аеродрома. Мада ни сам аеродром није далеко од центра града, можда 25 минута метроом. Такси изађе око 8 евра тако да ни то није страшно.

      Што се Беовоза тиче, мислим да је он сада прикључен на Бус Плус а Сурчин би требало да буде у Зони 2. Ту су карте нешто скупље мада опет није толика разлика.

      Огроман број Бугара посети Београд. Није било особе која ми није рекла како је била у Београду и како им је било супер. Можда када би се мало спустиле таксе (аеродромске, државне...) карте би могле бити приступачније те би се више људи определило за авион. Зашто да се клацкаш 4-5 сати колима или бусом ако можеш доћи авионом за 40 минута. Нажалост са тренутним ценама (Air Serbia) од преко 20.000 без кофера то није реално.

    3. Anonymous15:51

      Nemjee, огромен брой посещават и Зайчар. Там си похапват хубава сръбска скара и храна.

    4. Anonymous15:53

      Nemjee, , отронен брой от Видинско посещават и Зайчар за да си похапнат хубава сръбска скара.

    5. Anonymous15:53

      Огромен брой хора*

    6. Nemjee17:45

      Добро дошли. <3

  6. Anonymous13:19


  7. Taksisti su svuda isti. Jure vreme i novac ali mislim da su najgori u SAD. Kao i drzava koja pljacka svoje gradjane na svakom koraku, taksisti u SAD naplacuju kako im cefne. A u Srbiji placam taksi 30 evra od Surcina do Smedereva. 25 ako idem do kuce u Beogradu. Barem je toliko kostalo pre rata u Ukrajini.

    1. Nemjee17:45

      Неки аеродроми попут SLC су увели посебан систем где постоје две зоне. Центар као и шири центар су зона 1 и ту је фиксна цена од $25. Убер и остали наплаћују $19 тако да су дали избор таксистима, или прихвати или изгуби битку.

      За узврат, Убер и њима слични немају приступ аеродромској згради, тј делу који је резервисан за таксисте.

  8. Anonymous15:47

    The SOF terminal was constructed in 2006 so you can't expect much Nemjee.
    At least you have a metro line that connects you to the centre in 20min and costs literally less than 1 euro.

    1. Nemjee17:41

      Well, look, LCA was opened in 2009 and it is a fantastic airport. BEG was expanded in 1981 and then refurbished in early 2000s and it still looked better than the brand new terminal in SOF.

      It is not so much about when it was built but rather how and what design they chose. This is very basic and it kind of looked cheap with those white tiles.

      Indeed, the metro is fantastic and I wish we had something similar in Belgrade.

  9. Anonymous16:00

    Such a damn pity that both capitals are less than 400km away but still need some bs connections via VIE. There are so many Serbs visiting Bulgaria and so many Bulgarians visiting Serbia. Sofia is full of Serbian cuisine restaurants now. I hope there is a low-cost carrier connection soon similar to Bucharest. Finally, this shitty 50km highway to be over connecting Sofia to South Serbia.

    1. Nemjee17:43

      I actually think Wizz Air should give BEG-SOF a try, I am sure with their low cost structure and strong brand in both markets they can make it work.

      I understand why Air Serbia flies at 13.20 or 00.40 but neither time is really great if you are a local.

    2. Anonymous19:22

      If the ongoing highway ever gets launched between INI and SOF there will be no need for an air link. The distance is barely less than 499km between both capitals. Many Bulgarians visit Serbia because of the good food and hospitality and vice versa via road because of the close distances and easy almost non-existant visa régime. If you visit SOF there are so many Serbian restaurants now.

    3. Anonymous19:30

      Sorry 400km and the distance is also quite close. Yet I agree, if FR has OTP and BUD linked to SOF then why not BEG? JU is great for connections but the prices are really high between both capitals :(

    4. Nemjee19:39

      Personally I'd rather spend those extra few hours in either one of the two cities than on the road so I'd choose to fly over the highway.

      Maybe it's just me.

    5. Anonymous21:06

      Nemjee, I was the anon asking you over car trip. Now it seems more logical, flying makes you relaxed and safe compared to driving and you can use your laptop at the same time. And I agree Wizz should at least try BEG-SOF.

    6. Anonymous21:38

      It would be great to have BEG-SOF at least 2 weekly may work quite well in my opinion. Last month, 86k Bulgarians visited Serbia:

    7. Anonymous22:27

      I hope Wizz does it, JU has massive delays these days. Look at what happened today.

    8. Anonymous23:35

      Yes, they do. At least they are trying their best with the tight fleet on hand. Many delays are normal when you have limited planes.

    9. Anonymous07:55

      Then I recommend better scheduling for next year? Don't overextend your fleet especially in cases like yesterday when three A319s were out of service.

  10. Anonymous00:27

    I really like the fact that all of a sudden everyone is extremely satisfied with bare minimum, that most of the legacies are offering, while it was such a problem just 2 years ago to fly without any service in economy.

    1. Anonymous07:54

      It's the new normal, new reality. What do you expect? That is why he wrote that he expects drinks and snacks to be back later on. Days of cuisine at 10.000 meters are gone and they are not coming back.


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