TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Belgrade - Istanbul - Belgrade


Written by Nemjee

Good morning and welcome to my trip report!
Due to some work related obligations, I needed to go to Istanbul. These days there are a lot of options to choose from when flying between the two cities. Unfortunately, demand is much higher than supply meaning fares are extremely expensive. I looked at my options a month in advance.

Even though I had no intention of flying into SAW, I glanced at Pegasus' website to see what they were offering. Both legs were operated by their 239 seat A321neo. BEG-SAW was offered for around €120 while the return flight cost over €900! It's truly unfortunate that they are not allowed to expand their presence in BEG as there is obviously more than enough room for growth.
Anyway, I switched to the JU-TK cartel and their fares were more or less the same. Since I was flying a day before the meeting and was coming back the day after, I decided to book my flight with Air Serbia. Fare without luggage and with seat selection came out to be 40.000 RSD which is approximately €341 for this 01.20 flight.

Departure: 12.15/12.22
Arrival: 14.50/14.38
Load: 120/144 (83%)
A319 - YU-APK

Here is YU-APK, our ride for today. We were boarding from the relatively horrible looking C3 gate. I disliked it because unlike the newly constructed terminal, this one didn't really have the open space but was rather closed off with white walls all around it. I suppose they are keeping it like that as this is the area that will be, most likely, reconstructed once the new check-in area is completed. I did use this opportunity to visit the newly expanded terminal area and I found it very nice. It's practical and there is a lot of natural light which is something I really like.

Next to us was this ancient B734 that was being prepared to fly to Zurich. It's really unfortunate that JU scheduled it on BEG-ZRH when their competition uses state of the art planes like A220 and E2. I guess Air Serbia doesn't really care about these things. I just hope that for summer 2023, they will not be shopping around museums for additional capacity.

I was the first to board. When I entered the plane, the purser was nowhere to be found. A younger female cabin crew was writing something in a book and when I said hello she just looked at me and kept on writing. Ok, anyway, her bitchiness aside, the cabin looked ok and I found the seats to be comfortable enough for intra-European flying. As I was sitting in the back of the plane, I noticed a male cabin crew member was busy in the galley. For the first 20-30 passengers that boarded the flight, there was no one to greet them. A while later the purser showed up and the guy emerged from the back and business was as usual.

That said, I would like to use this opportunity to say that the purser on that flight was lovely (unlike her younger colleagues). She looked very tidy, gracious and kind towards passengers.

We would have left even earlier but we had to wait for luggage as there were quite a few transfers onboard. From what I could see there were around 40 bags that were brought later on. I guess 40 to 50 people onboard were connecting in BEG. From what I could notice, most passengers onboard were Serbs and it seemed as if they were going for holidays to Istanbul.

The day before my flight I checked what JU was charging for BEG-IST and the flight cost close to €200 (one way). I guess JU's revenue management would rather have 24 empty seats than to lower their fares a bit in order to stimulate demand on slower days (this was a Wednesday).

It was a short taxi to the runway and we were off.

Air Serbia complimentary service includes chips and a tiny bottle of water. I purchased a Coke for 300 RSD from their onboard menu. Flight was mostly uneventful and service was rather fast as there were barely any onboard sales.

Our flight path took us over the city of Istanbul so you could enjoy very nice sights. Here's one of the old IST airport.

As we taxied to our gate we ran into a familiar face! Before crossing the runway we had to let JU's IST-KVO flight take off. It was really nice to see them there.

Anyway, it took us roughly 20 minutes to reach our gate which wasn't that bad. I guess we arrived at a quieter time so all was good.

Anyway, this is the first part of the report. Below you can find my impressions from the return flight.

Departure: 15.40/16.15
Arrival: 16.20/16.32
Load: 147/144 (102%)
A319 - YU-APE

Word to the wise: no matter when your flight is out of IST, make sure you arrive at least 3 hours before take off. There is a lot of security at the airport which includes two sets of security checks as well as a passport check while you stand in line for the passport control. However, once you are through the airport is great. Lots of shops, lots of things to do. IST is truly a fantastic airport.

Another great thing is that you can see really nicely what's going on outside.

Our gate today was D1. It was crazy how full the flight was. There were 4 passengers in business class. In the back it was mostly Turks and it seemed like they were either coming for holidays or transfering to Europe.

I noticed there were quite a few Swedes and Germans waiting in the gate. This made sense as this flight took place last Friday and that afternoon there were quite a few departures to Western Europe. All in all, good for JU. However this shows that this flight could have been easily operated by an A320. #yu-apo
Btw ticket sales for this flight were closed roughly 10 days before the trip. This is yet another example that there isn't enough capacity on BEG-IST.

Lufthansa is really thriving in Istanbul. They operate double daily FRA-IST onboard their A320, they suspended MUC and their daughters axed VIE and ZRH flights. It's truly odd that people are not rushing to fly with them given their low fares and fantastic onboard product.

Here comes Air Serbia. Unfortunately, that day they were not as lucky as it took them forever to reach the gate.

Pulling into the gate. Gotta say that their livery looks truly fantastic.

It didn't take long before boarding started. Even though our flight arrived with a slight delay, we were ready to depart more or less on time. Unfortunately for us, we were stuck in the plane for 20 minutes waiting for the rush hour to pass so that we could be pushed back.

Photoshoot before leaving. By the way, this was our supervisor. The handling agent JU uses in IST is fantastic. They are all young, very professional and polite.

We taxied to the runway behind Aeroflot's B77W. We waited for the A321neo to CPH to take off, after which it was our turn. Take off was fantastic as it was very, very windy that day. Since we were heavy it took forever to take off after which we were literally blown away to the east by the winds. We climbed like a rocket after which turbulence stopped.

Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Air Serbia seems to have dropped those nasty Noblice and replaced them with Gricko - a snack I absolutely love. Unfortunately they still don't give you a wet tissue which you could use to wipe your hands after eating either Gricko or chips. JU should really work on this as I doubt it would be a big expense for them.

The crew on this flight was fantastic. Our purser was very professional and you could see that he knew what he was doing. Working with him were two young ladies who looked very presentable and were pleasant towards passengers.

We parked at gate C14 and our plane was being prepared for its next destination (BER). Next to us, pictured here, was YU-APC.

Once we went up (escalators worked) I could see nicely our A319 along with YU-APC and easyJet's A320neo taking off in the background.

The corridor that takes you to the passport control looked very nice and modern.

Ongoing construction

I noticed the new checkin area will feature some ethnic designs.

And then you see things like this. I honestly can't believe BEG management is this incompetent. It hasn't been a year since you opened this part of the terminal and we are already seeing things like these? Personally I find this unacceptable.

Anyway, fun doesn end there. I reached the passport control only to see that I was 55.787th person in line. Naturally, all passport control booths weren't open so the line moved at a glacial pace. On top of all this, easyJet A320 from Basel as well as Wizz Air flight from somewhere arrived so it got even worse. I waited some 40 minutes in line. When my turn came I noticed that there were even more people as more flights kept on arriving. The line actually extended all the way to the escalators.

To conclude this trip report, I would like to say that Air Serbia is just ok. Nothing special about them but they offer a fine, basic product. When it comes to their crew, well, here it's hit or miss. I suppose they are tired and overworked but as a paying customer I should not have to deal with that. This is something they need to address with their management. Their pricing seems to be odd as pointed out in the first part of this trip report. I noticed that this year JU was many things but cheap wasn't one of them. Hopefully this translates into them coming close to breaking-even. If they wish to charge this much then they should at least improve their complimentary service. Maybe bring back free coffee and tea. This is something that passengers would appreciate especially on morning flights.

This is where we say goodbye and I hope you enjoyed reading this trip report!

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  1. Anonymous09:09

    Thank you Nemjee, I really enjoyed reading your trip report.

  2. Anonymous09:16

    Nice report. Regarding your second last photo, they are actually fixing the flooring :)

    1. Nemjee12:11

      Thank you. Makes me wonder why it needs fixing so soon. Then again they placed some tourist booth in the corner so it might have been damaged during installation.

  3. Anonymous10:07

    They really need to do something about passport control lines at BEG! Very frustrating to wait that much every time more than one plane lands

    1. Anonymous10:35

      Isn't that up to the ministry of interior? They assign policemen to work there from what I know.

      JU really needs to increase IST to 14.

  4. Anonymous10:36

    "Gricko" is serious downgrade comparing to "Noblice" :)

    1. Anonymous11:10

      I prefer Gricko but it's just not travel friendly.

    2. Nemjee12:13

      Hehe nice, personally I always found Noblice to be dry, the cookie part that is. Maybe best solution would be for JU crew to do what B6 does and to offer passengers a choice between the three.

    3. Anonymous19:09

      It was never Noblice on Airbus flights but chips.

      Nemjee, get your facts straight.

    4. Anonymous19:32

      They were Noblice. On my flight from FRA this year they served Noblice.

    5. Nemjee19:40

      Maybe it's a recent change, I also recall getting them when flying to and from Cyprus some years ago.

    6. Anonymous19:46

      I had them just a week ago on my A319 flight.

  5. Anonymous10:57

    I think that is a breach of safety procedures that during boarding the are no crew members at emergency exits on the wings. This is very dangerous

    1. Nemjee12:14

      Well, they were there after 5-6 minutes so it's not the end of the world. Also refueling wasn't taking place so there was minimal risk in such a short period of time.

  6. Anonymous11:29

    Excellent trip report as always. I am glad that Air Serbia has a large number of transfers from Istanbul and that their planes are full. I hope for your new trip report with Air Serbia to JFK soon.

    1. Anonymous12:01


    2. Nemjee12:14

      Indeed, hopefully they add more flights as demand is obviously there. Then again they are struggling with planes right now so I doubt they have spare capacity for more flights.

    3. Anonymous14:41

      Adding flights to Istanbul should be a priority in any case. I see they are sending more and more A320.

    4. Nemjee19:41

      I absolutely agree. It's a short segment with expensive fares and high volumes. Air Serbia should rush to add more flights, even if it's with the A319.

  7. Anonymous11:32

    Thank you for great report!
    It is nice to hear that Air Serbia is doing well.
    The point about passport conrol was very good! BEG is making huge misstake about it. It is shame how it is working. They should have at least much longer "snake" for decent behaviour in lines (in case of inabilty to increase capcity of passport control).

    1. Vlad12:01

      The snake is actually quite long as it is, the problem is that the booths are chronically understaffed for both outbound and inbound passengers. Every time I visit BEG it seems to get worse.

    2. Nemjee12:17

      You are welcome. Another thing to consider here is how small the area is especially at a time when several flights arrive at the same time. They also closed off the stairs that used to be there. This is really good as upstairs they transformed this into a large empty space, like a mini square. I think they also removed that small cafe that was in the middle. It definitely feels more airy and spacious.

  8. Anonymous11:54

    Good as usual Nemjee.
    Thing that raised my curiosity was return leg load factor of 102% or 147 pax out of 144 seats available.
    Where the extra passengers were seated and isn't it a breach of safety regulations?

    1. Anonymous11:59

      It was probably babies. Seated on the lap of their parent, in line with regulation.

    2. Nemjee12:20

      Indeed, infants are counted as passengers but are seated on the lap and they get a special seat belt. That is why our flight had more passengers than actual seats. As mentioned above, this flight was sold out several days before. Makes you wonder how many passengers there would have been if they sent a larger plane. With good pricing they could have reached 180-200 passengers.

    3. Anonymous14:44

      Someone from Air Serbia should read this. Although I believe that they know all this, but they do nothing.

  9. Anonymous12:39

    Great report overall, lots of details. But two things bothered me. Writing that a female crew member was a bitch, and drinking that 'poison' called coca-cola. Hahaha. I mean drink what you want but knowing how detrimental it is to your health... cheers mate.

    1. Nemjee12:57

      Thank you. Actually I drink Coke maybe once a year. Here I was exhausted so I needed a sugar and caffeine bomb to last me until I got to the hotel. That is why there aren't so many pictures from the first leg of the journey.

      As for the crew, don't know if she is that but her behavior was definitely bitchy, not just during boarding but later on as well. Here's an example. In front of me there was a mother with two children (I think they were either Egyptian or Jordanian) and they were continuing their journey on TK.
      So they bought three sandwiches and drinks. A while later the crew was passing through the cabin with the trolley (I guess it was Duty Free) so the mother asks if she can change one of the sandwiches. This crew member took the receipt and actually noticed she gave them an extra sandwich by mistake. Without apologizing, or even smiling, she just took it away and said in relatively broken English that it was given to them by mistake and that they can't change the order since the payment was already made. Then they just left.
      I don't think the Arab woman really understood what happened but she didn't really bother debating with her.
      That is why I said that JU crew is hit or miss and those working on the flight back were truly fantastic.

    2. Anonymous13:10

      I appreciate the reply.

    3. Anonymous15:20

      It is dehumanising to call a woman a bitch. It is a sad, albeit extremely damaging, example of everyday sexism. I'm sure you could have found better ways of expressing your dissatisfaction with their work-related morale.

    4. Anonymous15:23

      That's her problem. She failed her employer.

    5. Anonymous15:25

      He just said she had a bitchy attitude on the day, he didn't say that she was this or that. Calm down.

    6. Anonymous15:27

      Exactly but I guess he just needed to complain for the sake of complaining.

    7. Nemjee15:40

      It's her attitude, read more carefully and spare us the PC culture nonsense.

    8. Anonymous15:48

      There is a difference between "PC" and "sexism".

    9. Nemjee15:52

      Yes and I'm sure there are websites where you can discuss this.

  10. Anonymous12:47

    Did I read it right when you called Lufthansa onboard product ‘fantastic’? U must be kidding me: they became one of the worst legacy carrier ever.

    1. Nemjee12:57

      I was being sarcastic. :)

    2. D flyer00:20

      That "fantastic" comment about Lufthansa struck me odd, too. Great trip report, by the way.

  11. Anonymous13:29

    Good to know.

  12. Nemjee13:33

    Well, I think everyone wants that. However, airlines are focused on how to attract customers so that they would choose them over their competition.
    This is where airlines need to become creative with their pricing, schedule, loyalty programs and so on.

  13. Anonymous16:12

    Great trip report!

  14. Anonymous16:21

    Thank you for another interesting trip report, Nemjee! Like me, whenever flying with JU you seem to have a flight on YU-APK. :) I really hope their crew will be more hit than miss in the future.

    1. Nemjee19:59

      Hehe yes, indeed. Though I found symbolism in this connections with YU-APK: it used to fly for Cobalt before they went bankrupt.

      I think I even wrote a trip report in 2019 when I flew on YU-APK to LCA. Back then it had the old cabin with thick seats.

  15. Anonymous17:24

    Always a pleasure to read your report. Hope TK will send widebody soon to Belgrade

  16. Anonymous18:18

    Nemjee fantastic report, as always. Hope that the site admin knows to value you and several other guys, that are standard in writing reports. I would prefer to not get any service than to get Chips or Gricko. Common Air Serbia, you can do it better.

    1. Anonymous19:12


    2. Nemjee19:48

      Thank you!
      I guess there are several things JU can do. They can do what AY does, they serve blueberry juice. JU could come up with something similar.
      They could copy Aegean and LOT and offer a small snack and a select number of free drinks.

      Heck they could even copy Jat and bring back those chocolate covered plums packed in small airplane shaped boxes!

  17. Thank you for such a nice travel report. I guess that savory or sweet choice would be such an upgrade for that free snack! And complimentary coffee too.

    How good or bad was your check-in experience in BEG? Since JU had shut down ASGS, it just getting worse - in my oppinion.

    Regarding passport checks - MUP could really install automated gates for arriving Serbians. That would help a lot! Sort of what we see at EU airports.

    1. Nemjee19:53

      This time around I traveled only with hand luggage so I didn't have to go through the check-in process. This summer was a true nightmare and I experienced standing in line for over an hour.

      Shutting down ASGS was a mistake. JU could fully control the system and they could adjust it as they saw fit. Now they have to deal with BEG employees which are generally rude and unpleasant. In all of my years of travel to/from BEG, I still have not met a single member of their staff that was pleasant to deal with.

      As for automated passport controls, didn't we have those in the past? I think they were placed all the way at the end of the line. Seems like they are gone now.

    2. I totally agree with you about BEG ground service. And I still wait JU to refund me for unused/unprovided "priority baggage" tag for my flight to Trieste in June.

      Automated passport control - There was only one available if I recall well (to the far left of the passport control). And in the first years there was a fuss because only the latest generation of biometric passports (with fingerprint date incorporated) were readable. After the outbreak of COVID-19 it ceased to work complete. What a pitty!

    3. Nemjee20:03

      On a side note, how was your flight with them to Trieste? How was the load on your flight?

      Indeed, I think it was for passports that were issued after 2018, or something like that. Maybe they will be brought back once the airport is fully reconstructed. I am sure passport control will be changed quite a bit.

    4. JU520 BEGLAX23:53

      Top report, very detailled. Typical product of Nemjee and his profound knowledge of aviation, JU and BEG. Thank you Nemjee

    5. Nemjee06:07

      Thank you. :)

  18. Anonymous23:59

    40 minutes in line for passport control is nothing comparing to exactly 60 minutes waiting in lime in Baden Baden last week. And our plane was the only one arriving at the time (let's say aprox 200 people), 3 desks were opened.

    1. Nemjee06:09

      Indeed, many are complaining about German airports these days. Personally, I am more impressed about there being 200 passengers on BEG-FKB this late in the year. Only goes to show how incompetent EW is for failing on STR-BEG.

  19. Great trip report

  20. Anonymous17:08

    The main issue when flying nowadays are not the planes and the air crew, but organisation of airports, airports security, border control and check in expedience. Back in my time, it was enough to arrive 2 hours before departure even for intercontinental flights. A month ago I arrived to the airport 90min in advance of my Zagreb-Thessaloniki flight. There were 15 people at the check in. It took me so long to check in that I ended running to catch the plane. There were hundreds of people at the security with only one line working, somehow managed to skip a loooong snake at the passport control after being yelled at by lady oweseeing the line. Reached the gate when they were calling my name. I got your Lufthansa comment as the sarcasm, too. I avoid them if I can.

    1. Nemjee17:27

      Interesting comment, thank you. Do you know why it took so long to check in? Were they checking documents or something? How many check in desks were there?

      Security seems to be a problem overall. I guess it's because airport security was handed over to private security companies that struggle to hire more people.


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