TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Belgrade - Vienna and back


Wirrten by Mihailo Milijanović

When I first booked tickets for this trip, I really didn't expect I would end up writing this report. What could there possibly be to write about? After all it's just a plain old 1-hour flight from Belgrade to Vienna on Air Serbia's ATR72. It certainly started off feeling like that.

The trip took place from November 24. to 27. I was traveling with my girlfriend and our scheduled flight was the 6:35 PM JU604. Since we were travelling with hand luggage only, we checked in online as soon as it was possible. We randomly got assigned seats 15D and 15F. Air Serbia advertises these as "priority" seats because they are towards the rear end of the plane and close to the door so in theory people sitting in those seats should be the first ones getting out after landing. I haven't paid attention if they charge more for choosing priority seats over regular ones, but they seem to have no practical value. Disembarking on ATRs is done via shuttle bus so until everyone leaves the plane it is not possible to get to the terminal building. One thing we did pay extra for was 1 hour lounge pass and fast track bundle. It felt like good value since we paid under 20 EUR per person while regular 1 hour lounge pass goes for 25 EUR usually.

We arrived at the airport around 4 PM and went straight to security. The line was fairly long but as we paid for fast track, we approached the business/fast track lane. At first, the guard looked at our boarding passes and said that we are at the wrong line because we have economy tickets. While I was trying to show him that we have fast track purchased and that it said so on our boarding passes he quickly said, "Oh Etihad guest, please go through". I was a little shocked that the person in charge of letting people go on fast lane seemed to have zero clue what he should look for on a boarding pass. Our Etihad status is only bronze and as such doesn't provide us free fast track. Anyway, we went through security quickly, but as it has been pointed out before, BEG does not have a fast track lane for passport control so it took around 15 minutes to get through.

After that we went to relax at Air Serbia's premium lounge. It was fairly busy but not too crowded. The drinks selection is pretty good, and it is served by Air Serbia's staff while food is buffet style. Food options included cream pea soup, pasta Bolognese, chicken in bechamel sauce, mashed potatoes, a variety of salads and breads, puff pastry, fruit and sweets. Everything we tried was super tasty and our hostesses were very nice and friendly. All things considered I would say that 19 EUR we paid for the lounge plus fast track bundle was definitely worth it.

Air Serbia Premium Lounge

An hour later it was time for boarding. It was done via shuttle bus from gate C10 that is located on the ground floor. There were no delays, and everything went swiftly. Our plane for that day was a five-year-old ATR 72-600 YU-ALW. One interesting thing I noticed was that flightradar showed the plane didn't fly for at least 7 days prior to that and it was supposed to be its first flight after a while. The flight itself was uneventful. After takeoff we got served noblice and a small bottle of water. Cabin crew barely had the time to offer snacks and drinks for purchase before captain announced top of descent. After landing I noticed a "JAT Tehnika" mechanic was waiting at the door and overheard a conversation between him and one of the cabin crew members about having to thoroughly check engine number 1. At the moment I didn't put much thought into it, I just checked later to see if the plane returned to BEG, which it did, on time. We disembarked via shuttle bus and went through passport control very quickly.

One very convenient thing that I can't forget to mention is that Vienna airport has a train station located in the terminal building and it takes around half an hour to get to the city centre with the "regular" S7 train or as the ads claim 16 minutes with the pricier City Airport Train.

For the return leg of our trip, we checked in online again and again we got the "priority" 15A and 15B seats. Our scheduled flight was the 8:50 PM JU605. We arrived at the airport quite early, somewhere around 4 PM. There were two main reasons behind that. Firstly, I had no idea how crowded VIE can get and how long it would take us to clear security. Secondly, we wanted to explore the option of getting tax return on some stuff that we purchased so we had to allocate some extra time for that. Our flight was leaving from terminal 1 and to my surprise there was not a single person waiting in line for security when we arrived. We were inside within a few minutes.

Our choice of lounge for the day was the VIENNA lounge. It is a very new facility, opened around six months ago so we had big expectations. We got lucky that they were running an autumn special so the price for a 3-hour pass was only 59 EUR for the two of us, while the usual price is 49 EUR per person. The lounge is huge, over 2500 square meters and 450 seats as they claim. It has showers, napping room, a quiet section for working, TV section with 4 huge TVs, runway view, smoking terrace, a bar and a buffet. Drinks selection was at least as good as in Air Serbia's BEG lounge if not better. The main difference is that in VIENNA everything is self service which is not a big deal, it's just funny seeing and hearing guests popping champagne bottles every 20 minutes. The buffet included various fruit, salads, sandwiches, a vegetable soup, a cream pepper soup, spaetzle, fried rice, chicken meatballs, vegetable puree, grilled vegetables and what seemed like 10 different dessert options. Our three hours have passed very quickly, and it was time for us to head to our gate.

View from the Vienna lounge

One interesting thing is that the lounge is located after security but before passport control. Luckily, there was only a couple of people waiting to get stamped out of Austria, so it didn't take long. Tax return procedure is very convenient. Everything is done digitally. You just scan your passport and boarding pass at the DEV machine and all your purchases that you requested tax return for show up on screen. After that if all your exports are approved you have to go across the hallway to the Inter Change counter. There you will have the option of mailing your tax return forms to Global Blue and getting the refund via credit card or you can get cash right there on the spot. If you chose the latter Inter Change will charge you 5 euros per receipt and you can only get up to 60 EUR. If the amount exceeds that, they will pay you in either USD or GBP, whichever you choose.

As we were walking to our gate, a 7.5-year-old ATR 72-600 YU-ALY landed in Vienna which meant that we should expect to board as scheduled. That is exactly how it went, boarding was completed on time and we started taxiing around 9 PM. About 10 minutes later, the captain made the announcement that we are 5th in queue for take off, apologised for the delay and said that we can expect to take off in about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, instead of take off an unusual amount of "ding" signals were sent from the cockpit to the cabin and a person in an aviation uniform rushed from the back of the plane to the cockpit. A few minutes passed and the captain made another announcement. Before we knew it, we were returning to our parking spot to do additional checks. The cabin crew informed us that we have a mechanic on board and that he will, with the help of the captain, go out and do an inspection of engine number 1 as the computer is displaying nonstandard parameters. At that moment I found it very bizarre that on both flights, on two different ATRs, there was a mechanic on board because of potential engine 1 issues. Long story short, after two hours and multiple inspections by the flight crew, somewhere around 11:20 PM, the captain announced that unfortunately we won't be able to take off and that we will be returning to the terminal building as soon as possible.

Inspection of engine 1

It took a while for the shuttle bus to come, pick us up and take us back to passport control. Another flight arrived at the same time so there was a pretty big queue, and it took around half an hour to get us stamped back into Austria. We were informed to go to terminal 1 where we will get further instructions. There, we received three pieces of paper: a hotel voucher, a confirmation of flight irregularity and Air Serbia contact details. We were instructed to contact Air Serbia if we don't receive any updates after two hours. The hotel was conveniently located at the airport, 500 meters from the terminal and it was accessible via underground tunnel. Hotel check in was as quick as possible considering there was over 70 people trying to check in at the same time. About 1 hour later we received confirmation that we have been rebooked to the 9:50 AM JU601. Further emails informed us that we also have the right to choose another flight, get a cash refund or get a voucher refund with 10% extra value. All things considered I think Air Serbia did a fine job taking care of us in this unfortunate turn of events. One thing they failed to do is to provide dinner for us, and the hotel didn't have any food at that time of the night (well past 1 AM), not even for sale. We checked in online for the morning flight, and as I expected it was to be operated on an Airbus A319. We must have been the first to check in, because our boarding passes showed seats 1B and 1C. Being a 188cm and 120kg man I can't say I wasn't delighted.

On the following morning we did get to enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast at the hotel before heading to the airport. Once again there were no queues for security and passport control, so we were at the gate in less than 15 minutes after entering the terminal. The shuttle bus was ready for boarding on time but boarding was delayed due to unexpected technicalities. Two female police officers came to the front of the line with a young girl who seemed to be getting deported. It took quite some time for the gate agent to sort that situation. After that he seemed incapable of assigning seats to the Air Serbia cabin crew that were on the cancelled flight and were supposed to return to BEG to their duties. It probably took close to 30 minutes before we could actually start boarding. On the runway, a 15-year-old Airbus A319 YU-APF "Dejan Stanković" was waiting to finally take us home. The boarding took a bit longer than usual since the shuttle bus had to return to the gate and pick up the remainder of the passengers, so we took off around 30 minutes after schedule. We did make up for that time in flight as the A319 only took about 45 minutes to get us to BEG in comparison to 1 hour and 10 minutes on the ATR. The flight itself was uneventful and we landed in BEG pretty much on time.

Boarding YU-APF

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  1. Anonymous09:11

    Interesting trip report. On my every JU flight on ATR and 737 were mechanics from Jat Tehnika

  2. Anonymous09:34

    Was that NH Hotel?
    I spent a night there in 2007, due to ATR malfunction... Luckilly I had a multiple entry visa, otherwise I'd had to wait at the gate until morning, with the majority of the folks.

    1. Mihailo Milijanović10:24

      It was Moxy airport hotel by Marriot, and it was pretty nice to be honest. Definitely better than what we expected.

  3. Interesting about the engineers being on both flights!

  4. Anonymous10:00

    Really nice and thoroughly done report.
    Interesting fact is that JU is always sending mechanics to the routes where the do not have support for the aircraft that they sre flying.
    This is the thing with VIE destination.
    You will always see a mechanic on the flight to this destination since in VIE there is no support fro ATR and licensed mechanic.

    1. Mihailo Milijanović11:05

      Thank you for your kind words. Regarding mechanics, it actually makes perfect sense but it would have never crossed my mind. I guess my thinking was just biased with everything that happened.

  5. Anonymous10:56

    Did you get compensation for the canceled flight?

    1. Mihailo Milijanović11:10

      Not yet since it was less than a month ago. I have made a complaint through their website and have only received a confirmation with a reference number for my claim. I will try to contact them after new year to see what is going on.

    2. Anonymous11:51

      Don’t they have to follow EU 261 since this was in the EU? Ryanair of all airlines refunded my ticket cost for a 5h+ delayed flight in 5 days.

    3. Anonymous11:52

      Oh, sorry. Just realised you guys were talking about compensation! Must have another cup of coffee. Apologies.

    4. Mihailo Milijanović12:15

      Yes, our flight got rescheduled to the first next available so there was no need to refund. We did have the option to take it as I've written. They still owe everyone 250 EUR compensation for damage caused by cancellation.

  6. Vlad11:31

    "I was a little shocked that the person in charge of letting people go on fast lane seemed to have zero clue what he should look for on a boarding pass."

    Same here. I have Star Alliance Gold status, and I have to fight for priority security every single time, they are completely clueless.

    1. Anonymous11:43

      And then for example, few days ago when I was taking 00:45 flight to Bucharest and security area was deserted, the "check guy" was taking all pax to fast lane because his chair was closer to fast lane so he does not have to stand and chrck who goes economy and who goes fast lane haha

    2. Anonymous11:49

      I absolutely hate it when people either don’t know what they’re doing or are too lazy to do it properly. Unfortunately, it’s (becoming?) the norm in today’s world.

    3. Mihailo Milijanović12:29

      It is quite bizzare. It's not rocket science. It takes probably about an hour to go through every possible way of having fast track and maybe a day or two of getting used to it in practice. And let's say they don't even care to bother with that at all. One would expect they will eventually learn from constant arguing with the passengers. How they are stil completely clueless is beyond me.

  7. Anonymous16:46

    Wich airport has priority lane for passport control?

    1. Anonymous16:48

      BEG had it before the reconstruction.

  8. Anonymous19:26

    Very interesting and informative report, thank you.

  9. Anonymous12:14

    Prate se uvek letovi gde nama podrska mehanicara na datom aerodromu za tip aviona. Konktetno za Atr Bec, Venecija, Sarajevo, Solun, Kraljevo, Istanbul, Rijeka, Pula, Bamja Luka... U principu nista specijalno samo nemaju atr mehanicare na datim aerodromima ako se nesto desi


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