This series covers a two-week vacation to Europe that will feature stops in SOF, BEG, TIV, LIS, ARN, and ATH. For background and planning, please refer back to Part 1. As a reminder, the routing for this series is:
Sofia – Part 4 Kotor – Part 6 Belgrade – Part 7 Lisbon – Part 9 Sintra – Part 10 Stockholm – Part 12 Athens – Part 16
This report will cover the flight from BEG to LHR aboard JU. This route is only operated by JU with daily service. This leg was an award ticket booked with EY miles. This report will be the premier of the new Air Serbia Premium Lounge in BEG. This is my second time flying JU in J, the other time was on EY 72 almost a year earlier (http://flight-report.com/en/report-10036.html). There will be a tourist bonus on Belgrade at the end of the report.
After breakfast at the hotel, I took an airport transfer to BEG for €20 since the shuttle service is not frequent early morning and I wanted sufficient time to explore the new Air Serbia Premium Lounge. My driver dropped me off in front of BEG at 7:15.
Heading towards the international departures lobby. (I don’t think there are any regularly scheduled domestic flights in Serbia, but I could be wrong…)
Inside, JU clearly runs the show. The FIDS.
Around the corner (near the YM check-in counters), there are two lanes for priority customers marked with fancy red velvet ropes and carpets. No one was in line so I’m quickly helped. The agent checks me in, checks my bag to LHR, hands me my boarding pass, a fast track card for LHR, and explains where I can find the lounge.
She also tags my backpack as cabin luggage. Why do so many carriers do this nowadays?
JU logos plastered everywhere.
The departures lobby upstairs. It has mechatronic FIDS and cafes/shops. There is a fast track line on the far left for passport control, but there is no line so I just quickly pass through and head airside.
Seating areas near the duty-free stores that overlook the tarmac.
Not much to spot right now, just an Aviolet B733. Aviolet is the charter company owned by JU. As it taxis off, you can also see the tail of an OS Fokker F100 that was getting ready to head back to VIE.
The entrance of the new Air Serbia Premium Lounge that just opened at the end of 2015.
The front desk adorned with orchids. An agent quickly appeared from around the corner and welcomed me scanning my boarding pass and explaining the offerings of the lounge.
I am the only person inside. There are two halves to the lounge. The left side is all sitting areas, and the right side is the dining area. The whole place feels very EY and reminds me of the lounges in AUH (minus the terrible crowds).
Walking through the left side, where there is press available at the end.
Looping back towards the food, you can see the tables in the dining area. I settle into this area to grab some breakfast.
The buffet with cold and hot options. I didn’t take pictures of everything, but here is some representative shots.
While I was filling my plate, the barista from behind the bar came up and asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I asked for a latte and she said she would bring it out shortly.
My first and second offerings. I didn’t find the hot food options to be particularly great, but I thought the continental offerings were better quality (pastries, fruits, yogurt, muesli, etc.).
The view of the dining areas from where I was sat. They turned on more lights after they noticed I was in there so it brighter now. I was the first person of the day and had the run of the place for a good 1.5 hours before anyone else showed up.
The bathrooms in the lounge. If you look closely, you’ll see there are no paper towels, everything is cotton hand towels same as the EY lounges in AUH. The one stall is large and contains a sink and shower.
I then tested out the other side of the lounge where I nestled in to write some e-mails. The barista approached me again and ask if I wanted anything else to drink. She brought me out some tea and honey.
These seating areas are nice because they have international plugs along the ground next to every seat, although they aren’t entirely private. I can’t imagine this lounge ever being close to full so it’s probably not a real problem.
At the indicated boarding time, I packed up and went to the gate. On the way there, noticed this display on Belgrade’s history.
Passing through the window lined concourses.
My beauty waiting outside getting refueled and catered.
The FIDS in English and Cyrillic. As you can see, JU has very few flights between 9-12am, just this flight to LHR.
My gate is open so I head in through security and enter the quarantine room. Since the security is done at the gate, there is no fast track security for priority passengers. But since it is only a flight’s worth of passengers filtering in, the lines aren’t very long and I was through within 5 minutes.
I get one more shot of my plane before taking a seat in the quarantine room.
Air Serbia, JU 380 Equipment: Airbus A319 [YU-APD (ex-LZ), delivered November 2004] Departure: 10:15 (ATD: 10:21) Arrival: 12:20 (ATA: 12:00) Flight time: 2:39
About 30 minutes to departure, the boarding process starts up. They do special assistance boarding first as is standard. I join the priority queue.
I head down the jetbridge and am welcomed on board by a FA who checks my boarding pass and shows me to my seat. Here is the familiar (to me) JU cabin with 2-rows of 2-2 J seating. I always pick 2A.
Seat pitch is a healthy ~38”, which is similar to domestic F in the US.
Pre-placed on the seats were pillow and blanket.
Detail of the antimacassar.
The FA quickly came through and started to introduce herself to each passenger, welcoming them onboard, and taking orders for PDB. The load in J was 3/8 and I’d say Y was pretty full based on the number of people boarding.
Champagne for me.
The FA then came back and presented me with the menu and entertainment on this flight. JU offers iPads for any flight over 2 hours.
The menu for March.
The FA retuned to take my order and deliver an oshibori. She also came through offering newspapers and magazines, but I declined since I had a NY Times from the lounge.
We get backed up and the FAs do the safety demonstration during the taxi. We have an older A319 based on the overhead.
We align onto the runway and are airborne without a wait.
As we lift up, we get a glimpse of some planes at remote stands. The EY A320 in new livery is the only plane left at the terminal as we quickly disappear into the Serbian countryside.
As we climb, lets take a look at the seatback pocket contents.
The safety card for this A319. If you look really closely, you’ll see something interesting. The seats they show on the safety card are the EY seats.
Wi-Fi is also available on the JU Airbus fleet now.
As we level off, the FA comes out and delivers a ramekin of warm nuts and another glass of champagne.
She then returns with my iPad and noise-cancelling headphones. It’s pre-loaded with a decent selection considering JU doesn’t operate many flights over 2 hours.
The entertainment listing. There are more programs than shown on this card.
The FA then comes back out and lays the linens for lunch.
My meal as delivered. I went for the roasted lamb dish.
The pretty exotic salad starter with pear, blue cheese, and cuttlefish ink croutons… Definitely unique and a nice starter, but it does have a noticeable absence of a protein.
The main. It had a good smoky flavor. Not the most glamorous of dishes visually, but for a traditional Serbian rustic meal it was very good.
I also like how JU has 500mL beers on board. Haven't seen these before on any other carrier.
The metal cutlery. I should also mention that there are salt/pepper shakers instead of packets.
After dinner, the FA cleared my tray and asked me if I wanted dessert and any drinks to accompany it. She brought out a coffee service and my dessert. I’m not a huge sweets fan and I found this to be bordering on the too sweet side for my taste. And the appearance of the vanilla cream, I won’t even comment on. Looks definitely like it died in the pressurized cabin… a scoop of vanilla ice cream would have probably gone better with it. The coffee service is nice providing a selection of sugars.
A picture of the cabin mid-flight.
I spent the rest of the flight watching TV shows on the iPad and the FA setup the other tray table with drinks for me, which were frequently topped off.
As we approached the English Channel, the pilot came on and announced that we would be entering a holding pattern for ~15 minutes, but expected an early arrival nonetheless. The FA came out and provided another fast track card for LHR and immigration documents.
As the cabin was prepared for our arrival, the FA handed out another oshibori.
No surprises, but it’s cloudy over LHR.
We make some loops with an EK A380 and BA A321.
We then exit our holding pattern and drop through the clouds on a dreary day in LHR touching down over 20 minutes early.
Many will shed a tear at the sight of this rusted and gutted plane.
We arrive into Terminal 4.
Deplaning the FA thanks me for flying with JU and I race off to immigration. But I do stop and take a picture of this EY A380 enroute.
Even though I’m connecting onto a BA/IB ticket, I have to claim my bags and re-check-in so it will be left for me.
The fast track lane was empty and I was quickly met by an immigration officer, who is friendlier than most based on my experiences in Europe. He was not too impressed with what I was doing and made me show my onward itinerary to enter the UK. He only gave me a 48-hour visa in the UK.
Reaching the baggage claim, you can see who else recently arrived. A lot of south Asians arriving on the AI, EY, and QR flights was evident from the masses filtering into the baggage claim. While waiting for my bag, the British lady in 2F started talking to me since she saw me taking a lot of pictures. We chatted until the bags came out, she was asking me about my vacation and where I was going.
With bag in hand, I take the Heathrow Express to Terminal 5 to check-in for my BA flights to LIS. The Heathrow Express is a crowded, disorganized process to get from terminal to terminal, but slightly less aggravating than the bus ride between terminals.
I’ll leave off this series here as I change terminals in LHR. Tune into the next report for the flight from LHR to MAD operated on IB’s A333.
——————————– BONUS: Belgrade (Београд) has stood as an important city for centuries due to its strategic positioning at the union of the Sava and Danube Rivers.
Belgrade is not as easy to navigate as Sofia since it lacks a metro, but there is an extensive streetcar system through the city center and you can buy 24-hour or 72-hour tickets from the tobacco shops.
Given the strategic importance of the city since the 6th century BC, Belgrade is most famous for its fortress, which is nestled inside of Kalemegdan Park. Not many tourists fill Belgrade, so most people out in the park looked to be locals. There is an extensive trail network that provides views over the city and the Sava River.
Entering Belgrade Fortress through the King Gate.
From the walls of the fortress, you can look down over Kalemegdan Park and see the union of the Sava and Danube Rivers.
Mausoleum of Silahdar Damat Ali Pasha, an Ottoman general highlighting the diverse empires that occupied this fortress.
Despite the gloomy skies, flowers were in bloom.
The most interesting stop at the fortress is the Military Museum.
The museum goes through chronologically explaining the role of Serbia in various wars since it stands near the border of Europe and Asia.
Near the end, you start to see the unification of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito, who has several rooms dedicated to him. This is when the museum suddenly ends since there was just one wall dedicated to the collapse of Yugoslavia and the ‘incident’ with NATO.
Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel, which houses some relics of Serbian saints.
Along the Sava River, there are these old warehouses. These warehouses are slowly being renovated and are popping up with new restaurants. Serbian gastronomy was surprisingly good and I had some of my best meals in Belgrade.
Downtown Belgrade also has some pedestrian streets, namely Kneza Mihaila, which is lined with shops and restaurants. The streets in this area look no different than any other European city.
Republic Square and the National Museum in Belgrade. To the right of the photo hiding in the trees was the National Theater.
The Old Palace.
The National Assembly of Serbia.
Not all of Belgrade is fancy, they still have their share of large stone buildings such as the Post of Serbia.
Saint Mark’s Church.
Right next to the church was the Air Serbia ticketing office, where you can even buy models and shirts^^ Alas it was Sunday so it was closed.
A new addition to Belgrade, but one of the largest is St. Sava’s Church that was completed in 1989. It was not so impressive on the inside with lots of work still being done on it.
The main reason to visit Belgrade is this little building right here.
That little building houses the Nikola Tesla Museum.
Many of Tesla’s inventions are on display inside and an English tour is done with demonstrations of the various inventions.
500 kV Tesla Coil.
Remote control boat.
Although never finishing school, he eventually received an honorary Doctorate from the University of Paris.
His grave in the US was excavated, the body was cremated, and his remains were placed in this urn to be brought back to Belgrade.
Finally, a somber reminder of the past can be seen as you walk through these old government buildings.
Across the street you can see the remains of bombed out buildings from the extensive attacks by NATO during the Kosovo War in 1998-1999. Throughout the city you can still find bombed out buildings that Serbia has decided to leave in tact in protest to the way they felt NATO unjustly targeted them. And just for Marathon, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was “accidentally” bombed by NATO during the air raids.
Air Serbia Premium Lounge
Belgrad - BEG
London - LHR
JU again demonstrates it is one of the hidden gems in the European premium market. JU offers a nice lounge in BEG, a real J cabin, IFE on flights over 2 hours, and very good catering. JU lived up to the memories I had of them and I would happily fly them again.
Cabin comfort: A real J cabin on an intra-European flight, what more can you ask for? These seats are too wide for me and lack some recline. But all things considered it is a strong products for flights less than 3 hours like JU operates. Pillow and blanket are both fine.
Crew: JU crew are well trained by EY. The FA operating the cabin was very friendly addressing me by name. She had perfect English ability and was very attentive.
Meal and catering: PDB offered, apertif service with warmed nuts, oshibori, full menu, a coursed meal: it is one of the most refined services in Europe. Some might complain about the wine list being only Serbian, but some might see that is them highlighting their local products. The salad and main were both good, the dessert is were I am taking points off for the weird cream on top.
Entertainment: Standard seatback literature. iPad passed out containing plenty of entertainment for a 2.5-hour flight. Only fault is the lack of a moving map.
On-time performance: We left right on time and landed early, despite the ATC delays into LHR.
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