TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia’s only “real” short-haul business cabin
TRIP REPORT

I had the opportunity to fly Air Serbia’s only proper narrow-body business class cabin two weeks ago, thanks to being on the A320 registered YU-APO. The plane, which also has sharklets, was formerly leased to Vistara in India, and once the aircraft was delivered to Air Serbia it was never reconfigured. Therefore, it has 8 proper business class seats. The economy seats also look more comfortable than the general offering since they don’t seem to be those ultra slim seats from what I could see.

A bit of background on how I got to fly with YU-APO. I had to go to Kuwait City for a meeting. Originally, I was supposed to fly with Jazeera Airways which was conveniently launching flights from Belgrade that day, with a departure at around 1AM on Saturday, which was perfect for me as I was unable to travel from Belgrade before 8PM the evening before due to other obligations. A week before my flight, I got a notification from Jazeera Airways that my flight time was changed, and that departure would now be on the day before at around 1PM. Jazeera rescheduled all their flights to Belgrade and now have just daytime flights. Unfortunately, this didn’t work for me, so I requested a refund and tried to find an alternative. To my surprise, Jazeera Airways processed my refund within less than 24 hours and the money was in my account the following day. It was difficult to find alternatives due to the fact that I could only travel later in the evening. Finally, I saw an option with Turkish Airlines, using Air Serbia’s 00.40 departure to Istanbul and then continuing with Turkish after a 3-hour layover. However, the ticket was extremely expensive. Interestingly, it was more than half the price if you just booked Turkish from Istanbul to Kuwait. So, I did that because I realised I had miles on my Etihad Guest frequent flyer program. I checked on Air Serbia’s website how many miles I needed to get a ticket to Istanbul. After that I had to call the Air Serbia call center to make the booking with miles (this was the first time I booked with miles on Air Serbia and the process was really easy). There is a dedicated line for Etihad Guest and I got straight through, made the booking and just paid the taxes which amounted to around 20 euros. The difference between economy and business was just 2,000 miles which, for Etihad Guest, isn’t a lot.
I arrived at around 10.30PM on a Friday at the airport and it was very quiet at the time. I guess it was a bit too early for the people going on the midnight wave of Air Serbia flights. The check-in agent, who seemed to be an experienced older lady, was kind and helpful. I told her I was continuing with Turkish but that I had two separate tickets. She said she could check-in my luggage all the way to Kuwait and that I just had to go to the transfer desk in Istanbul to get my boarding pass for my onward flight.

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Passport control was also empty at the time, so I finished all the check-in formalities quickly. It was busy inside the departures area. Other than the duty free, all shops were already closed. A lot of people were sleeping on the floor or chairs (presumably waiting for the morning wave). Air Serbia’s Premium Lounge was already shut (once upon a time they used to work 24 hours and considering their volume of traffic nowadays I would think it would be logical that they were open or at least worked till midnight for their passengers departing late at night). The Belgrade Airport lounge was also shut (I believe they close at 10PM). My flight was already showing as delayed by 40 minutes. I checked flightradar and saw it was incoming late from Oslo, but from what I could conclude, the delay wouldn’t be longer than 40 minutes.

Considering there was nothing to do I observed the passenger flow at the airport a bit. A couple of flights from Air Serbia’s European evening wave were coming in late, between 40 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes. All the regional flights departing after midnight seemed to have already been on the ground and ready. Some of them had already completed boarding but were waiting for connecting passengers. As the European flights started landing, you could see the stampede of people running through the terminal to catch their onward flights to Varna, Athens, Thessaloniki etc. I saw one flight land (not sure where from) with at least 80 passengers connecting onwards.
At our gate, the passengers seemed to be mostly from Turkey. There was also (to my surprise) a lot of French-speaking passengers who seemed to have connected from the Paris flight. I noticed at least 10-15 passengers coming off the Oslo flight (our plane for the night) which seemed to be connecting elsewhere.
In the end, our boarding began 40 minutes late as anticipated and almost all the midnight wave flights were delayed because they were waiting for connecting passengers. The flight to Istanbul was full.
The cabin on YU-APO is in purple tones matching the colours of its former operator. As noted before, there are eight seats in business class in a 2 by 2 configuration. There were a total of 5 passengers (including myself) in business. There was a Turkish couple sitting in front of me and another couple (I believe Russian but I’m not entirely sure) who had connected from a different flight as I saw them running down the corridor at the airport as their incoming fight was probably delayed. For some reason they were originally in separate rows but moved to sit together before departure. They also proceeded to the transfer desk in Istnabul so they seem to have been continuing onwards.

The purser on the flight was an older gentleman and there was a younger female cabin crew member working in business class as well. I’m not sure if it was a one off or Air Serbia has changed its boarding music as there was a recorded announcement “You are listening to the Radio Belgrade orchestra” and classical music was being played.
The younger crew member came around straight away with the menu for the flight. Considering this is a flight lasting barely over an hour and departing at around 1AM, I have to say it is impressive to be offered three hot meal choices. As boarding procedures were ongoing, the crew member came around and took the meal and drink selection.

Regarding the seat, I must say it is much more comfortable than eurobusiness. It has seatback recline but also has a reclining footrest. The back of the seat has a tablet holder and the pitch is generous. We departed using the new “inserted” runway and there is definitely a noticeable difference in the lighting as it was very bright as we lined up.

Within a couple of minutes of taking off, the crew served the meals. I chose the pasta dish, which was a sizable portion. I think Air Serbia just needs to work on the presentation of the meal. I ordered some wine along with it, which was nice and I was given a proper glass for it, but I also had some sparkling water which was served in a plastic cup.

The purser came out to collect the trays and asked anyone if they wanted anything else. The pilot also gave an extensive announcement of the places we would fly over and the weather conditions. He did apologise for the late departure and told us it was because the inbound flight was late.
We landed about 40 minutes behind schedule at a very stormy Istanbul Airport. For the first time at Istanbul from my experience, the taxi wasn’t long at all. We were parked at a jet bridge gate within minutes. I had no issues at the transfer desk to get my Turkish boarding pass. They checked my bag tag and told me it would be transferred to the next flight, and indeed it was waiting for me in Kuwait upon arrival.
Overall, the flight was enjoyable. I really liked the Vistara seats, although realise it is not their usual hard product. The choice of meals was very extensive, and the taste was fine, they should just work on the presentation. Cabin crew was very nice.


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Article source: http://www.exyuaviation.com/2023/06/trip-report-air-serbias-only-real-short.html

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