Trip Reports & Reviews

When ECONOMY beats BUSINESS CLASS! Air SERBIA

Noel

Noel Philips

I took a flight with Air Serbia and discovered that sometimes, economy class can be even better than business class!

The taxi ride out to the airport takes around 30 minutes, and takes you past some of the worst affected parts of Sarajevo affected by the siege.

The ride cost me 30 Bosnian Marks, or around 15 Euros.

Once at the airport, I checked in and got my boarding pass. I headed to security, where I was turned back to check in as my boarding pass hadn’t been stamped.

The guy at check in sent me to the information desk, who themselves sent me back to check in, again.

Feeling like some sort of human ping pong ball I eventually got a new boarding pass from check in and was able to head through security.

Once airside I headed straight to the Air Serbia lounge, which was, lets just say a little underwhelming.

The wifi didn’t seem to work at all, and the range of food and drink was, well, a little poor.

I decided that rather than sit in a dark room with no food and no wifi, I’d be better off sitting in the departure lounge with no food and no wifi – as I’d at least be able to watch the planes outside.

There was an Austrian A321 heading up to Vienna on the ramp, and it wasn’t long before my ride to Belgrade arrived. I was due to be flying on an ATR72 today, so an A319 was a bit of an upgrade. This one was originally delivered to TACA Peru in 2000, before going to Mexican airline Volaris in 2006, and eventually to Air Serbia in 2013.

It was soon time to board, and I headed down the jetbridge to the waiting aircraft.

My first leg on this flight is in economy, and the next leg from Belgrade to Amsterdam is in business class. Even the economy seats on AirSerbia are pretty comfortable, and there’s plenty of leg room. Boarding however was totally chaotic – as every single passenger seemed to have bought their worldly possessions with them. The overhead bins soon filled up, and the cabin crew kept coming on threatening that we’d miss our slot unless everybody hurried up, which just seemed to make the passengers take their time even more.

Finally, everyone was onboard, somehow 140 trolley bags had been stowed and we were able to push back.

Our route today took us east across Bosnia and Herzegovina, crossing into Serbia and descending down into Belgrade. Flight time today was a rather spritely 26 minutes, compared to the ATR’s schedule flight time of 50 minutes, and our cruising altitude today was 19,000ft.

There wasn’t even time for the cabin crew to do a serviceon today’s flight – no sooner had we took off than we were descending almost immediately over Serbia into Belgrade.

We touched down on a rainy evening into the Serbian capital. Belgrade is Air Serbia’s hub and they even offer transatlantic flights to New York from here, on an Airbus A330.

I grabbed a taxi to my hotel in the city centre, which cost me 1800 Serbian Dinars, or around £13.

The traffic was horrendous this evening around Belgrade, and it took around an hour to get into the city centre.

I finally arrived at my home for the night, the beautiful Hotel Moskva, right in downtown Belgrade.

The traffic was much lighter at 5:00 in the morning, and it took just 20 minutes to get to the airport.

The airport was incredibly busy though. First up was passport control, where I was stamped out of Serbia.

After passport control the airport is very similar to Berlin’s Tegel Airport, where all security is done right at the gate. In my effort to get the maximum sleep possible I’d left it really late, and the gate was open already so I had to skip the lounge and head straight through security into the gate area.

We were soon called for boarding and once again I boarded an Air Serbia A319. This one was slightly newer than the last – and was delivered in 2004 to Independence Air in the USA. It then went to Aigle Azur, and like the last one, flew for Volaris in Mexico before coming to Air Serbia in 2014.

Business class on the Air Serbia A319 is a standard European business class, which is just an economy seat with the middle seat blocked. Air Serbia used to offer a proper business class seat which set them apart, but these days they’ve gone down the same route as pretty much every other European airline.

Boarding was just as chaotic today, with almost everyone bringing along a trolley case, which once more filled the overhead bins long before everyone was on board.

A menu was handed out for breakfast, which in written form seemed quite nice. I looked forward to my nice business class breakfast, as we pushed back from the gate.

Our route today then took us north east out of Belgrade to cross Hungary, Austria, Czechia and Germany, before descending into Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. Flight time today was 2 hours 6 minutes, at a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet.

The middle seat was unfortunately occupied on today’s flight by a bag and coat belonging to the guy sat on the aisle. So much for that extra space!

I was surprised that AirSerbia offer wifi onboard their Airbus A319s. It offers entertainment direct to your device for free, or to surf the web you can pay between 3 and 14 Euros for up to 90MB of data, which isn’t a massive amount but on a short flight should be plenty.

My breakfast was served, but to be honest it wasn’t the best. The omelette was very dry and the potatoes were soggy. There was a bowl that had some cheese and some very soggy crackers. The crew said that they’d do the economy service before coming back with coffee.

My coffee was eventually served, just as we commenced our descent into Amsterdam.

Amsterdam was under a typically cloudy and foggy morning today, and we touched down on runway 18C. At least it wasn’t the Polderbaan, and we wouldn’t have a massive taxi after we touched down.

My flight to Amsterdam cost me £220.30, or $284, including the £100 I bid for the upgrade on the Amsterdam flight. This was for a distance flown of 998 miles, giving a cost per mile of 22 pence.

Overall I found Air Serbia pretty average as a European airline. The seats were comfortable, and there was loads of leg room – even in economy. However in future I won’t be paying extra for their business class, on their European flights at least. The lounge in Sarajevo wasn’t great, the food was poor, and the seat was no more comfortable in business than economy.

Couple this with the fact that you can only earn miles on their own programme, as well as Alitalia and Etihad, and it all makes them compare very poorly with other European business class products. In economy though, AirSerbia seemed to have an excellent product. If anything, the breakfast in economy looked nicer than in business class – with a packaged sandwich, tea/coffee and no dry omelette or soggy crackers. I’d choose AirSerbia’s short haul economy over many other airlines, especially with their good value fares in economy.