TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Milan - Belgrade

Written by Tomislav Ivanović

This summer I started my 5-week road trip holiday from Marseille without a clear idea from which airport I would return back to Belgrade. The main focus was South France and the French/Spanish Pyrenees, a combination of a sea and mountain trip, but I was open to other alternatives. Finally, 10 days prior to my return to Serbia and following a long journey from Marseille to Toulouse, Biarritz, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Oviedo, Zaragoza, Andorra and Albi, I picked Milano Malpensa as a convenient airport to return to Belgrade so I continued the last stretch of my holiday along the Cote d’Azur towards Italy.

Air Serbia’s return ticket for the flight from Milan to Belgrade cost 280 EUR. I picked a random return date in October with a plan to make another weekend trip to Milan in the second half of October. Also, buying a return ticket was a cheaper option than buying a one-way ticket.
The ticket stated that the flight would be operated by Dan Air. I arrived at Malpensa on 4th August 2023 at 19h. I had already completed check-in through Air Serbia’s app on my phone, so I thought that I would quickly finish the baggage drop-off. However, it turned out that all 3 check-in counters were for the same line of passengers. So, there was no dedicated line for baggage drop-off. When I was close to the counter, one counter was almost blocked because an Arabic passenger was debating with the check-in agent whether his 2 suitcases (both weighing 70 kg in total) and baby trolley could be checked-in. The supervisor arrived, and she finally gave the green light so he checked in all his luggage. In addition, one check-in agent spent some time explaining to another passenger the rules about overbooking and why he can’t be issued a boarding pass although he has a ticket, and that he would have to wait to see if there would be any available seats. It took me about 20 minutes to complete te baggage drop-off. Interestingly, when I checked-in via the app, I was assigned seat 11F. But at the check-in desk, I was given a boarding pass with the seat 3C.

Then I passed the security check. Again, around half an hour queueing. I was glad that Malpensa also introduced new technologies, so it was no longer needed to take laptops and liquids out of hand luggage.

The flight was departing from terminal B. I arrived at the passport control. There weren’t many passengers, but still the line was lagging because only 2 police desks were open. In addition, the 2 young police guys stopped working because they had been consulting each other regarding one passport. I could tell that they were suspicious whether a passport was forged, raising each page towards the light, inspecting carefully each stamp… Then a third policeman arrived, and we still stood in the line. After about 20 minutes, a new police desk opened and a policewoman started controlling passports, so we finally moved. In addition, a big group of Emirates cabin crew members arrived, so they were all given priority. We had to wait until all of them passed. I was thinking what would happen next. I started becoming nervous seeing that 20.30h was approaching.

Having passed the passport check, I rushed to B78. When I arrived, boarding was already in progress. To my surprise, it wasn’t a Dan Air plane, but Air Serbia’s A319. The flight was full. Not a single empty seat. Even business class seats (the first two rows) were sold as economy.

The captain welcomed us and said that we would have to wait because Malpensa is experiencing a shortage of staff, so the loading of luggage was still not complete. After 40 minutes, we were still waiting for them to finish loading. Fortunately, they switched on air conditioning since it was becoming warm inside a packed plane. The pilot was quite talkative, he apologised for the 40 minutes’ delay and said that the flight would take us via Brescia, Venice, Istria, Zagreb, Osijek, Novi Sad and then Belgrade airport. Due to some clouds, we could expect light turbulence. The lights switched off for take off. But then the real experience started. The plane started making such a noise as if we were flying in a helicopter. The deafening noise made many passengers uncomfortable, and it lasted the entire time the plane was gaining altitude. I don’t know the exact reason for this strange noise, but still it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It brought back memories of old Air Serbia’s ATR which once flew with similar tractor-like noise which used to prevent passengers from hearing each other talking during the flight. Luckily, the noise stopped once we reached cruising altitude. The flight attendants used the short period of the flight without turbulence to distribute Noblice cookies and water.
The flight lasted 1 hour 30 minutes. Upon landing, I was among the first to leave the plane because I had been seated in the third row. The airport wasn’t crowded. We quickly passed passport control. While I was waiting for the luggage, I spotted a young man with a wife and a child who approached one of the airport staff. He was complaining that they have been waiting for more than an hour, that the child is tired but they still don’t have their suitcase. The airport staff asked from which destination they arrived. He replied Amsterdam. She just commented that she doesn’t know where his suitcase is, and that he should look around or report to lost luggage. After some 40 minutes, the suitcases from Milan started arriving. I felt relieved when I spotted my blue suitcase on the luggage belt.

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