Finally, the moment I have been waiting for: a ride aboard JU! Yes, this an EY flight, but it is operated by Air Serbia. To what extent does EY put their hand into the JU product? Read below and find out. A good comparison to this report would be a recent report by pititom aboard HG’s new business class from VIE-AUH ( http://flight-report.com/en/report-9620.html ). As a reminder, the routing is as follows:
After arriving into Nikola Tesla Airport, I make a beeline to the transfer counter in order to pick up my boarding passes for my remaining flights. Initial impressions of BEG is that it doesn’t look old, but it has that Eastern European feel of being dark and cold (the rain outside did not help with the natural lighting).
Getting to the transfers desk, there is no one in line, so I’m immediately helped by a young JU employ who speaks perfect English. He also had some issues with the boarding passes, but a quick call to EY and he was able to get everything sorted out. He confirms that my bags were checked through to NGO and hands me my two boarding passes on JU card stock (those are keepers!). He tells me my boarding time, the general direction of my gate, and the location of the lounge all with a smile. EY has certainly had their hand in this aspect of JU’s service. A good initial impression from the JU ground crews, but the actual BEG airport workers look very formidable and I wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley…
As we head to the lounge, my eyes are immediately drawn to this shop selling Serbian souvenirs, but alas I keep my eyes on the prize as we head to BEG’s Business Club.
Arriving at the lounge entrance, there is a sign listing the accepted customers (essentially everyone since this is the only lounge at BEG), then we head down the red carpet to the entrance of the Business Club, what a classy name!
Entering, there is a burly looking BEG airport worker who was giving me the stink eye. Luckily a smiling JU agent behind him calls me forward and scans in my boarding pass and welcomes me to the lounge as she reminds me of my boarding time and that there will be secondary security checks for my flight (we were already at the boarding time listed on my boarding pass).
While the security guard wasn’t looking at me, I made a quick strafe of the food on offer in the lounge. It wasn’t “bad,” better than the offerings at the AZ Lounge I stopped in at FCO. There was a small buffet section occupying an island, there were vegetables (at least not in plastic bags), pasta salad, cheese, and meats. Beets seemed like an odd inclusion for the buffet, maybe a local thing?
Next to the island was an L-shaped counter. On one end had the soup of the day, a little steamer that had warm sandwiches in it (ham or ham and cheese, such variety!), fruits, and then some trays with pastries and rolls. Up on the shelf above this area were the liquors and wines that were all self-service and were of decent selection (let’s not forget we are in Serbia).
At the other end of the counter are the cold drinks. Your normal selection of waters, juices, soft drinks, and beers. I apologize for the photo qualities, but I was trying not to draw too much attention to myself since it was quite busy in the lounge.
As I’m looking for a seat, I see this big open seating area in the back corner, but all the seats have a piece of paper labeled “Reserved” written on them. This will at least give you an idea of the space in the lounge. Not very big, maybe 50 seats and around 30 are filled when I get there. It has a kind of modern feel, much brighter than the terminal, but the windows don’t look airside, they look landside and towards the parking lot… I take a seat at a table shared with two other Eastern European men.
I wasn’t too hungry since I just gorged myself on the previous flight, but here is my selection to sample the food. Alas, the ham was not ham, but some sort of bologna, not what I was hoping for. The cheese was good. I was skeptical of these individually wrapped rolls thinking they would be gas station quality, but it was actually a good roll. And to top it off a Leffe Blonde, which was a nice find at the lounge. The only other beer option was Amstel. Also notice the JU Elevate magazines that were everywhere in the lounge.
Document and corporate shots, highlighting this beautiful JU cardstock. WiFi in the lounge was fast. Don't remember if there was free WiFi in the airport.
They had boarding listed for 60 minutes before the flight, which is common for a long haul, but not for an A319, so I stayed in the lounge for 20 minutes before heading to the gate. I’m wished a pleasant flight by the smiling JU FA.
Heading to my gate, I can see my plane from FCO about to get pushed back for the return trip.
My gate was in the newer part of the airport, so it starts to look more visually appealing with natural light. Not as dark and dreary over here. On my way, I take a picture of the departures monitor. JU runs the show, mainly with flights to other parts of Eastern Europe. LH and SU are the only other planes on the tarmac at the moment according to this display.
We can also indulge in some JU spotting on the way there! Like these JU A320s and ATR72s.
Arriving at my gate, I can’t read this sign, but it looks like everything is on time. I go through the secondary document and security checks and am deposited into this quarantined waiting room.
From this holding room, I can only get a nose shot of my plane.
Boarding is called for my flight about 35 minutes prior to the departure time. Business class is called first so we head down the jetbridge. The rain is starting to come down again making photos more difficult, but I can confirm that I had two pilots on board today and both were JU. On the other side of the jetbridge, we can get the side shot of our plane’s livery.
A very warm welcome aboard by three FAs standing in the galley, then one of them walks me to my seat. Turning into the cabin, I must say it was a big difference from the AZ business class I just got off of. JU has gone with 2 rows of 2x2 seating in their A319s. Large grey recliners look very new, and despite this plane’s age it still looks to be in very good condition. This cabin will seem very similar to offerings in Asia on regional routes and the USA in domestic F.
The FA takes my bag of omiyage and puts it up in the overhead storage and then asks me how my morning has been. That caught me off guard since normally FAs don’t ask those kinds of personal questions in Asia (in the US that would be a normal question). I respond politely and then take my seat. The seat is very wide, so it felt like I was swimming in my seat. There is a pillow and blanket in the seat already (both JU).
Looking out the window, we can see our neighbor’s tail. I really like the new JU logo.
As the business cabin finishes filling, the FA comes out and offers an oshibori on a platter and takes a verbal pre-departure drink order (no tray was brought out with pre-poured drinks). Champagne is not available on the ground, so I will just take a water. Hmm, this isn’t a JU oshibori… we have an EY intruder! The load in business class today was 5/8; I was the 'lucky' one who got a seatmate. That can be either good or bad. You lose privacy, but you potentially can meet and talk to someone interesting from another part of the world. Since this was a daytime flight of medium length, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Turns out, it wasn’t so bad as I’ll explain later on.
While waiting for my drink, I see a SU B738 taxing to the terminal after arriving from SVO.
My water (in an EY glass) is delivered followed by the distribution of newspapers. Since I already read the NY Times, I opted for the Sunday Times’ sports section. Who doesn’t love day old sports news? We then had our menus for this flight handed out along with amenity kits (showcased using my stock photo). Yep, these are both also EY. So far it has been an interesting mix of JU and EY.
Now comes the bad news, this FRist didn’t photograph the menu when it was delivered thinking I could do it when I got home. Alas, the FAs trashed it while they were cleaning up the cabin when I went to the lavatory during the final descent. I’ll try my best to explain it from my recollection. It was a standard EY offering. There was an “any time” menu featuring stewed beef, warm chicken panini, and the standard sides they always have. The main meal had two options for appetizers (western and Arabic mezze), four options for main (beef, chicken, vegetarian, and lamb), and two options for dessert (ice cream and cheesecake). The drink list was the standard EY drink menu that you can find in Parts 1 or 2 of this series. I asked for champagne as my aperitif and then for the meal I went for the Arabic mezze, lamb meatballs, and the cheesecake for dessert. She came back minutes later and told me and the gentleman across the aisle that based on the loading, we could only get the mezze or the cheesecake. I let him have the mezze and I took the cheesecake for dessert. This was kind of annoying since this flight only had five people in J, seems like poor catering loading by EY.
Another amusing aside was that the FA, wanted to call me Dr. NGO85 so she came by and asked me for the pronunciation of my last name. The other four people in the cabin all looked like they were from the Balkan region, so she had no problem addressing them. It took me five tries to get her to say it right, a little bit embarrassing for the both of us, but a very nice gesture. I appreciate this; it’s better for her to ask then to butcher my name the entire flight.
This is also an interesting observation; there were actually five FAs on this flight, four JU and one EY. Yep, there was an EY FA on our flight who was training the JU crew on service protocol. The EY FA stayed in the front the entire flight, but she could be seen giving instructions from time to time on service protocol.
While we are waiting to take off, let's take a look at the seat offerings. The pitch is good for European business standards. I was able to get out and use the lavatory without making my seatmate get up out of his seat or fold up his tray table (I was the only person to use the lavatory from business class, these other guys had bladders of steel for a 4.5-hour flight). So even though it's not a glamorous seat pitch, it was functional. Seat controls were very minimalist, your classic one-button in the arm rest for recline.
The seat back contained everything EY (duty-free catalog, E-Box listings, and magazine), except for the safety card. Since the safety card is JU, I’ll show this. However, if you look closely at this safety card, you’ll notice that the seats in the pictures are actually EY seats. Interesting…
There is no personal IFE for these seats; you instead get a nice view of a large grey piece of leather. These cabins were refurbished a little bit better than what pititom saw with HG, the lights and vents for the middle seat were removed completely to make this a real business cabin.
The front doors close on time and we pushed back and headed out on our taxi. We see this little guy waiting for take-off as we are heading to the runway.
Reaching the threshold of the runway we stop to let two planes land. First up was this FV An-148, which was exciting to see because FV grounded all of their An-148s the week after I saw this plane. It's also strange since FV does not fly to BEG. The second plane to come down in the rain was a LO E-195.
We then turned onto the runway and began our run to the north. As we lift up, we get a nice aerial view of BEG. We can see where the FV An-148 parked at a remote stand next to a bunch of private jets, which makes me think it wasn’t a commercial flight (maybe government?). We then can see the main part of the terminal, where LH and SU are prominent intruders in the line-up (the LO E-195 is taxing in that photo). We then pass by the fleet of JU ATR-72s at remote stands. Our rise then continues over the green farmland outside of Belgrade before we make a U-turn providing a view of the airport in the distance.
As soon as we level off, the FA comes out and distributes iPads loaded with E-Box (not the full version, but about 50% of what you’d get on EY, which is still more than sufficient) and the flimsy EY headphones. I thought the selection was good, but the lack of a moving map is a huge drawback of these portable IFEs. This was immediately followed by a glass of champagne and a ramekin of warm nuts (the glass was full when delivered, not poured at the seat).
It was at this point that my seatmate finally broke his silence and asked me what kind of camera I was using. We spent the next fifteen minutes talking about photography and I learned that he was actually a Bosnian, who was heading back to the Middle East for work (he’s done this route three times so he knew the service well). Our conversation was interrupted by the laying of linens. Appetizers were then delivered along with a Stella Artois. I’m not a big fan of meat appetizers like this, which is why I wanted the mezze, but I will say that the presentation was good and the meat and cucumbers all tasted good.
Within a minute of finishing my appetizer, the very alert FA quickly cleared my plate and brought out my main and another can of Stella Artois. Presentation is not so great, but then again they are meatballs, what can you really do with that? (I spilled the rice; it was not delivered to me like that). I don’t eat a lot of Middle Eastern food, but I thought the lamb meatballs were well seasoned and still moist. The warmth of the meat paired well with the cool yogurt sauce. The saffron rice was very different from the Japanese rice I’m used to eating, but I didn’t find it bad. This was the first meal from EY catering that really had flavor.
After I finished, my table was cleared and the FA asked what I wanted to drink with my dessert. I just asked for a glass of water and a coffee to follow the dessert. As requested, my cheesecake with blueberry compote was delivered alone. Cheesecake is one of the few cakes I like (since it's never cloyingly sweet) and this one was really good.
After dessert, coffee was brought out. As I enjoyed my coffee watching some E-Box, a peak outside shows the sun is already setting and it is really cloudy outside. The cabin was plunged into darkness after the meal service.
I spent the next two hours watching E-Box. The FA came through regularly offering drinks. I found the seat to be comfortable and it had very good lumbar support. I normally use the pillow for lumbar support, but not with this seat. Recline wasn’t great, so that might be a problem if you wanted to sleep. The lavatory was pretty generic, but it did have EY’s products in it.
About an hour and half from our estimated time of arrival, I noticed my seatmate ordering some food so I also partook in the offerings of EY’s anytime menu. I asked for the stewed beef, a fruit plate, and a glass of water. The FA told me it would be about 15 minutes while she heated up the food. Peaking out the window, we can see some city lights below, but since we don’t have a moving map on the iPads, I had no idea where we were.
I was actually surprised she laid a tablecloth again for this snack. Right after she set up my table, the captain came on and said that we were beginning our final descent into AUH and would be landing in 25 minutes… the FA looked shocked, we were landing way too early. She asked me if I still wanted the food, I told her I would eat it as fast as possible, but not to bring the fruit plate. So, with 25 minutes to go in the flight, we have the second meal: stewed beef with tomatoes and potatoes. I found the meat a little bit tougher than I would expect for “stewed” meat, but the sauce had a good flavor and I liked the tomatoes. I barely finished this in time and made a last gasp lavatory trip (when my menu was stolen!) before she did the final cabin pass for arrival.
The rest of the descent was spent in conversation with my seatmate; we had a nice discussion about Bosnia. So I didn’t get the chance to get any night shots on approach. The landing was smooth enough and we were on the ground almost 50 minutes early. While we were taxing, I managed to free myself from our conversation long enough to grab this photo of the AUH control tower.
It’s probably no surprise, but we ended up at a remote stand and were going to head back to the terminal by paxbus. When we pulled up to our stand, the FA came through and thanked each of us personally for flying with JU/EY as she handed me my belongings from the overhead bin. Business class was shielded off and the five of us headed down the stairs and onto our private bus that immediately bolted off. I only had enough time to take this poor photo of our plane on arrival.
We had a very short bus ride only allowing time for me to spot one interesting plane (aka, non-EY), which was this I-Fly A330.
Arriving in the terminal, I immediately head off to the security line for flight transfers to get back airside.
I’ll leave you all at this point; as I begin my short layover in AUH. What was originally going to be a non-existent layover (arrival time and boarding time were the same), now gives me a little bit of time to explore the EY Lounge in Terminal 1. For those of you not interested in tourist bonuses, scroll to the bottom for the flight summary and scoring.
Your tourist bonus for this report will be a little bit more traditional with a simple tour of ancient Rome. There is no better place to start exploring ancient Rome than at the Coliseum.
The Arch of Constantine.
Entering the Roman Forum.
Palatine Hill is up on the left as you enter the Roman Forum.
On top of Palatine Hill you get a very nice view of the Coliseum and Arch of Constantine. Then some more ruins on Palatine Hill.
A view of Circus Maximus from the top of Palatine Hill.
A look down at the Roman Forum from the top of Palatine Hill. Straight ahead is the Temple of Romulus in the first picture.
Walking through the Roman Forum, you can look up at Palatine Hill where I took the previous aerial shots.
The Temple of Romulus (now a church for preservation).
The Temple of Saturn. This is what happens when the polytheist era buildings were not converted to churches.
Altare della Patria, Celebrating the unification of Italy.
This is the apartment building from where Mussolini ran Italy. The windows look straight at the Altare della Patria.
I forget what this was called, but these ruins mark the place where Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar. Now it is the home of hundreds of feral cats.
Chiesa del Gesu, the Jesuit church in Rome. Inside is the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, personally important hence the stop. On display is his arm, which used to be paraded through the town on his feast day. If you look closely, it’s missing a thumb, which was bitten off by a pilgrim during it’s last trip through the city.
This store caught my eye while we were walking down the street. So everyone wonders where religious buy religious stuff, where here is your one stop shop for chalices and more!
Next up was a stop by the Pantheon, which was also converted into a church. The tomb of Vittorio Emanuele II, the Father of Italy. The Pantheon also houses the tomb of Raphael. The famous domed ceiling, a modern engineering marvel.
This spire intrigued me for two reasons. It has the Austrian crest on top (two headed eagle) and the yellow/green spiraled tiles are almost an exact replica of St. Stephen’s in Vienna. The church was closed for the afternoon, but the plaque outside did confirm it was the Church of the Teutonic Order.
One of the many Egyptian obelisks scattered through the city brought back to Rome by Roman troops.
Another Egyptian obelisk adorns a very crowded Piazza Navona.
Near the Tiber River, came across this elaborate mural on a side street representing the political separation in the city.
And last, but not least, a trip to Italy is not complete without some food pictures for Cobra. Here is a simple Roman meal. Prosciutto e melone to start, followed by spinach ravioli for a primi, then oven-roasted sea bream covered with thinly sliced potatoes and then coated with olive oil and herbs for a secondi.
Thanks for stopping by and tune in next time for the final installment of this series, both AUH-PEK and PEK-NGO will be combined for the full experience.
Star Alliance Business Lounge
Belgrad - BEG
Abu Dhabi - AUH
This was a highly anticipated flight for me and it did not disappoint. I’ve heard that EY flights operated by other carriers (such as 9W) can give a mix bag of surprises, but I felt that JU’s performance was very much in line with what one would expect on EY. Yes, a fairly long flight on a narrow-body isn’t great, but I was satisfied thanks to good catering and an even better crew.
Cabin comfort: I gave up a flat-bed on EY for this, but I found the seat comfortable for this length of flight. I never noticed any discomfort during the flight that caused me to readjust my sitting position. Great lumbar support, but mediocre recline with limited seat functionality (no adjustments other than recline). Pitch could have been better (for example, the same as what EY offers on their narrow bodies). Overall, a good product and much better than typical European business class.
Crew: Delightful JU FA. From start to finish, she was friendly and smiling. She made a big effort to address me by name throughout the flight. She had to handle five people by herself, but you would have never known it based on how attentive she was during the services. Pilots made announcements pre-departure and pre-arrival in Serbo-Croatian and English.
Meal and catering: This is a 4.5-hour flight, but I received a full meal and a snack. You can’t argue with the offering. Yes, it’s lamb meatballs, but I found them to be very good. I find the food on this flight to be much better tasting overall than what I had received NGO-AUH on EY. I’m taking only 1 point off for not getting the appetizer I wanted since I was very happy with the cheesecake I got. I’m taking another 0.5 points off for the cook on the stewed beef.
Entertainment: iPad loaded with E-Box, standard seat back literature, and newspapers offered pre-departure. No moving map on the iPad :(
On-time performance: Left on time and landed nearly 50 minutes early much to the surprise of everyone on-board.
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