TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Belgrade - Madrid

Written by Veljko Marinković

I recently took a flight from Belgrade to Madrid with Air Serbia, which was operated by the Lithuanian airline GetJet Airlines. I used the Air Serbia mobile application to check in for this flight Unexpectedly, Air Serbia switched to a smaller A319 aircraft and postponed the departure time by five minutes one month prior to the flight’s departure from Belgrade. During the check-in process, I discovered that the aircraft that was flying the route was an A320, with 31 rows, but in reality, the aircraft had 30 rows. Not sure what was happening here, and whether Air Serbia has an A320 with 31 rows in its fleet.
This time, I decided to drive to the airport and drop off my car at Tesla Airport parking because there was a 20% discount available for online ticket purchases. This made the four-day trip more affordable than taking a one-way taxi. I’m using this option for the second time, and I can only recommend it. Additionally, a free shuttle service to and from Terminal 2 departs every ten minutes around the clock. Since there wasn’t much traffic when I got to the airport, I breezed through security and passport control. The new Duty-Free area has opened up after the security check area since my last visit to the airport in April. I have to admit, it looks nice and modern.

Gate C14 was used for boarding, and while I was there, I saw that some new mini-booths had been set up for passengers to rest. Given that the majority of my prior flights were out of A gates, I’m not sure if this is something new. The only issue I had with the airport was that it was stuffy and hot, and the cooling system didn’t seem to be functioning.

Boarding began right on time as indicated on the boarding pass. There were three business class passengers among the approximately 150 total on this flight. I’m not sure why boarding wasn’t done in accordance with the rows of seats; it was disorganised. There was a mixture of Spanish, Russian, and Serb passengers. I observed that a particular proportion of the passengers on both flights were tourists from Spain visiting Belgrade. After boarding was completed we were informed by the captain that due to the ATC restrictions our flight would be delayed for 25 minutes.
A 19-year-old Airbus A320 registered as LY-GYM, which had previously been wet-leased to Azerbaijan Airlines, operated the flight. I have to admit that the cabin looked great. With an adequate seat pitch and extra back support, the seats were comfortable. I got to see the seat with some “accessories” in between the seats for the first time. I’m not sure how to describe it, but the distance between the seats is increased. On this flight, Air Serbia served a small water and tasteless sandwiches as part of their cabin service. The majority of the crew was Spanish, and they were all friendly and professional.

During the flight, an incident occurred, and as far as I understood, one of the passengers was smoking in the lavatory. I’m not sure if the smoke detector was triggered or what, but at one point, all the crew members started acting strange and looking for someone or something. When they found the suspected passenger, the interrogation started, but since the passenger was speaking only Spanish, I only managed to understand in that discussion that he was denying accusations. Subsequently, the crew searched for a cigarette, initially in the lavatory (it wasn’t there) and then directly from the passenger; nonetheless, because he persisted in his denial, he was eventually issued only a warning.
We landed at Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport with a 20-minute delay and then taxied for close to 15 minutes, considering that the aircraft parked at the farthest and last possible gate at the airport. From that position, it took another 20-25 minutes to leave the airport. 

A 20-minute walk didn’t seem like a big deal after three hours on the plane, but I want to stress this because of the return journey and the fact that Air Serbia doesn’t offer online check-in for flights departing from Madrid. I was surprised by this information, especially when I realised that there is no possibility for online check-in for any destination from Spain, especially for the high-frequency route from Barcelona. Although Air Serbia duly sent a reminder e-mail that it was check-in time for a destination for which it was not possible to check online, still I couldn’t find any information about when the check-in counter at the airport opens. So I arrived 3 hours before the scheduled departure time. Interestingly, a certain number of passengers were already waiting in line, even though the counter opened 2 hours and 30 minutes before departure. Madrid Airport is huge, it has a lot of shops and cafes, very clean and spacious, but a bit outdated in some parts, especially in the check-in area. The only downside is that none of the cell phone charging sockets worked at T1.

Once more, ATC constraints were cited as the cause of the one-hour delay of this flight. LY-GYM was originally scheduled to operate this flight; however, LY-MAL had to take its place because of a longer delay from the previous flight. The LY-MAL is a far less comfortable jet, fully configured as low-cost, with less cozy Recaro seats that don’t recline. Having taken Wizz Air flights frequently, I can say that I am familiar with this kind of seating; that being said, I found it difficult to place my legs anywhere, whether it was because the middle seat or particular row was specially narrowed.

Three people were traveling in business class, and the load factor was approximately 80% (check-in agents told me the inbound flight was nearly full). The cabin service was the same as on the inbound flight, although this time refreshing towel was missing. The rest of the flight was uneventful. We were 45 minutes late landing at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade. The passport control process went very smoothly.
Overall, my flight with Air Serbia was OK, but I think that Air Serbia needs to standardize its service. Out of my last four flights, only one was operated with Air Serbia aircraft and crew, and three were operated by three different wet-leased airlines.

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