I just arrived in Belgrade on an Air Serbia flight from Zürich. This is not my first visit to Belgrade but it shall be the first time I transit at Belgrade airport.
TRANSFER IN BELGRADE
Transferring at Belgrade airport could hardly be easier. As you exit the airbridge you immediately find yourself airside. Owing to the size of the facility, and also probably to its age, arriving and departing passengers are not segregated at Belgrade airport.
The airport appears to be undergoing renovation at the moment. There is the nice shiny, new part at the heart of the terminal complex and then, the farther away you move from the centre, the shabbier the place becomes. But I think it will look rather nice once the entire facility has been completed.
In any case, I was issued with the boarding pass for my onward connection to Bucharest when I checked in this morning in Zürich, so I guess I might as well head straight for the lounge.
Location: The lounge is located close to gate A1 in the newly refurbished part of the terminal
Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge operated by Belgrade airport
Facilities: Cold food (salad bar) and hot and cold drinks, toilets are located in the lounge but there are no showers
Internet: Free wifi, but a password is required
The lounge has a very modern feel to it and the selection of food and drinks is quite good. The only downside, as far as I can tell, is that this is the only lounge available to serve all the airlines operating to Belgrade. As a result, the place is probably already a bit too small, which is also why I didn’t take that many pictures.
Priority Boarding: No
Do not let the FIDS mislead you! Or your boarding pass for that matter. A quick glance at my boarding pass confirms that apparently boarding starts one full hour before departure. This is confirmed when I check the FIDS for my flight and the status is already at ‘go to gate’ even more than an hour before departure.
Belgrade uses a closed gate system. In order to access the gate area or holding pen, you have to go through security first, and quite obviously they want to make sure passengers don’t arrive late. In any case, there’s no queue anymore when I arrive at the gate roughly 35 minutes before departure. But there isn’t any space to sit left either. It’s standing room only.
On a positive note however, it would appear that the new shiny A 319 that was scheduled to operate this flight today has been substituted with a Boeing B 737-300. And as the icing on the cake, she’s even an albino. Completely white, with only the registration revealing her origins. Normally I would consider this a downgrade. But I think the B 737 is on its way out with Air Serbia since Etihad took over. And the B737-300 is slowly becoming rare in Europe, so for me this really is a stroke of luck!
Configuration: 3 + 3 with the middle seat left empty in Business Class
Audio and Video: NIL
This is much more like what I’m familiar with. The usual euro-style Business Class with the middle seat left empty. The seats look vaguely familiar and I find myself wondering if this bird perhaps once flew for Lufthansa in a previous life, many moons ago. But apart from that, everything is the same as on the previous flight. Including the blanket and red pillow at every seat.
Once more though, I’m not sitting on the seat I was originally booked on, this time I’m on 2F instead of 1C. But never mind.
There are two rows of Business Class, with seven of eight seats taken. And by the looks of it, the seat fairy has done her magic again and I’m the only passenger to have a whole row to himself. Jay!
The crew on this flight are a lot like the previous one: very friendly and chatty, cracking jokes with the passengers in a very charming and disarming manner. One of the young ladies is quite flirty, a fact which does not escape most of the male passengers – and their girlfriends…
Welcome drink on the ground: Yes, freshly squeezed orange juice
Hot towel before the meal: Yes, rose scented hot towel served on the ground
Pre-meal drink: No, due to the short flight time
Choice: Vegetarian or meat
Delivery: Individual tray service
Type of meal: Light snack with dessert
- two sandwiches filled with fresh vegetables and grilled aubergine
- skewer of fruit
Once boarding is completed, little miss flirty comes through the cabin with hot rose scented towels and takes orders for pre departure drinks. Again I have a fresh orange juice.
There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin on this flight, presumably to speed things up on such a short sector.
After take-off orders are taken for drinks and food, and a short while later the tray appears. I’m quite impressed that even for such a light meal Air Serbia will place a table cloth on the tray table.
The two sandwiches hit the spot nicely and the fruit tastes fresh and juicy. As the purser removes my tray, he asks me if I enjoyed the meal and if there’s anything else I’d like. So I ask for a coffee, not quite sure if I’ll get one, given the fact that we’re already descending towards Bucharest by this time. But all he has to say about the fact is ‘Of course, milk and sugar?’ And a short while later my coffee appears with a last rose scented hot towel.
There isn’t really much to say about our arrival into Bucharest, it’s quite a bumpy approach with the strong wind. That’s all.
GETTING INTO TOWN
Departs from: One floor down from arrivals
Journey time: 30 – 40 minutes
Fare: 7 Romanian Leu for a return ticket, you have to purchase a chargeable card from the ticket booth at the far end of the pavement, outside the terminal.
I’m staying at the Radisson Blue in Bucharest. The easiest way to get there is by bus line 783. The journey time varies considerably, depending on traffic. Alight at bus stop ‘University’ from where it is just a short walk to the hotel.
As you might have guessed already, I shall not be returning home to Basel the way I came with Air Serbia, which is a shame really, because their service really is quite outstanding. Obviously on this sector the hardware was no match for the newer A 320 I had on the previous leg, although the aircraft looked and felt very well maintained. Nonetheless, the crew on this flight demonstrated quite spectacularly just how true it is that the impression you have of an airline largely depends on the staff, the people that make the airline. I enjoyed these two flights, and should I ever be heading to this part of the world in future, Air Serbia will definitely be on my list of likely carriers.