TRIP REPORT: Tallinn - Sarajevo via Vienna and Zurich

Written by Amar Hamzić

Date: 18.06.2023.

Flight number 1

Tallinn – Zurich
Swiss International Air Lines – Operated by Air Baltic
Flight number: LX 1317
Aircraft: YL-AAX (Airbus A220-300)
Flight time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Flight number 2

Zurich – Vienna
Austrian Airlines
Flight number: OS 552
Aircraft: OE-LBO (Airbus A320-214)
Flight time: 1 hour
Flight number 3
Vienna – Sarajevo
Austrian Airlines
Flight number: OS 757
Aircraft: OE-LBL (Airbus A320-214)
Flight time: 50 minutes
Traveling between Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina is usually pretty complicated and expensive. As there are no low cost flights flying to/from Tallinn from anywhere in the region, the only option available are legacy airlines, and in the specific case of Sarajevo, it is usually Lufthansa group or Turkish Airlines (LOT during the summer season, but prices were super expensive whenever I checked). This time, I selected the option with 2 layovers (ZRH and VIE) as it was significantly cheaper than flying with just one layover (Frankfurt with LH), and still was just 2 hours longer (as both layovers were not longer than 2 hours each).
Flight from Tallinn was scheduled for 06:15 local time (GMT+3). As the airport is located almost in the city center, I left my accommodation just after 04:15 and already at 04:30 I arrived at the airport. During the day it is possible to reach the city easily by tram and bus, but in the morning hours, the best (and only available) option is a taxi that cost me 6 euros (great price, isn’t it!). I was able to do an online check-in through the Austrian app the night before as this was a really interesting combination of the flights inside the LH group. My first leg was from Sarajevo to Helsinki (via Frankfurt) operated by Lufthansa, and my return leg was with Swiss but operated by Air Baltic and Austrian (however all flight numbers on my boarding passes were LX). During the online check-in, I was assigned random seats, however I was able to change my seats to any other available with no additional costs (except the exit row seats that were 20 euros each), so I got window seats for all three flights. As I was traveling with hand luggage only, I was given digital boarding passes for all three flights and I went straight to the security and gates at Tallinn Airport.
Check-in counters at Tallinn Airport

Sunrise was at 04:04 and during the night it stays mostly light during this part of the year

Security checks went smoothly and just a few minutes after arriving, I was already at the gates. Tallinn Airport is definitely one of my favorite airports and it is annually awarded as one of the best airports serving 2-5 million passengers. There are comfortable seats with electrical sockets provided everywhere, and shops with affordable prices (1,5 EUR for a bottle of water or 1 EUR for a chocolate bar), and the most interesting thing is that all gates are sponsored by different companies, which gives it really a special vibe.
Gate number 2 is sponsored by a local brewery

Gate number 1 is sponsored by the National Library

Board games available at the gates

Gate number 5

After morning coffee and playing a few games of table tennis with random locals, it was already time for boarding. The first flight was operated by Air Baltic with an international cabin crew (they were communicating among themselves in English). It was 2,5 years old Airbus A220 in 2-3 configuration. Even though the flight was fully sold out, boarding was completed fast and we departed on time. Most of the passengers on the flight were connecting passengers, a lot of them traveling to Canada and USA through ZRH. The flight itself was really smooth and I managed to sleep through most of it. At the beginning, we were given a bottle of water, and later it was possible to buy products from the Swiss menu (and pay with credit cards or miles).
On board delights

Air Baltic safety card in English and Latvian

Small screen with flight information above each row

In Zurich, I had an almost 2-hour layover, which was more than enough to find my new gate, especially as I was not leaving the Schengen zone. The aircraft on this flight was an almost 26-year-old veteran in the Austrian fleet and painted in Austrian retro livery (unfortunately I was not able to take any photos). The flight went really smoothly and during the whole time we had amazing views of Swiss, German and Austrian Alpes (we flew directly over the Zugspitze area, the highest point in Germany). In Vienna, we landed on time, but I was a bit stressed as we parked at a remote stand and we needed to use busses to the terminal, and my layover was just 45 minutes including passport control that I needed to go through. However, I was really lucky that passport control was empty, and managed to arrive at my F gate on time. Also, on the ZRH-VIE flight I managed to count at least 7 other passengers transferring to Sarajevo, mostly from USA and Canada flights. The flight to Sarajevo was fully booked and I previously received an e-mail that I am able to check in my hand luggage for free at the gate, in order to ensure faster boarding and enough space for hand luggage in the airplane. The flight was again on time and we landed in Sarajevo just before 14:00 local time.
Nice views over the Alpes

The airplane was deboarded through the stairs, but we were able to walk to the runway and see the renovated terminal building from the outside. Queues at passport control were again really long (it is slowly becoming a rule if you are landing during the “afternoon rush”) and I waited more than 30 minutes. Even though the passport control area was not renovated (there are still 8 counters), half of them were empty, so it is probably not an infrastructural problem of the airport but just a lack of staff in the Border Police. In all these areas, there are new signs, and what was interesting for me is that all of them are primarily written in English and then Bosnian, as usually it is firstly written in the local language. They are still clear to read and understand, but it was just something that caught my attention while waiting 🙂
Austrian OE-LBL at Sarajevo Airport

Long queues at passport control

Renovated baggage claim area

New signs that I mentioned earlier

After passport control, there is a new baggage claim area with two operating belts (used to be just one). Also, rent a car and other related services that were stationed inside the terminal building are now moved to the new buildings in the parking lot. There is also no more “15 minutes of free parking” option, but it makes sense since the “Kiss and Fly” zone is introduced.
New location of the rent-a-car services in the parking lot

Altogether, it was a smooth and nice experience with the LH group, with all flights being on time and fully sold out. On the flight between ZRH and VIE, I also paid for wifi services (5 EUR for text and surf option), as well as paid for drinks with my awarded miles (I just previously used them for buying tickets and things in the online shop), and for a cup of coffee and can of Cola I paid 1900 miles (in comparison for that flight I was awarded 250 miles).

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