Air Serbia has a brand new business class seat on its flights within Europe. This flight review recounts my experience flying from London to Belgrade a couple weeks ago.
I arrived three hours prior to my flight via London Underground and found the check-in queue empty. A cheerful agent checked me in, weighing my carry-on bags to ensure they were not too heavy. She wished me a good flight and asked me if I knew where the lounge was located.
Air Serbia Passengers Use Etihad Lounge in London
Air Serbia operates from Terminal 4 at London Heathrow, the same terminal as its close partner Etihad. As a result, business class passengers are invited to use the Etihad Lounge. I’ll have a post up reviewing that lounge in the days ahead, but I’ll note here that while there have been cutbacks, the cutbacks are not as severe as what we have seen in the Etihad USA lounges.
I appeared at the gate five minutes before scheduled boarding was due to begin. Our aircraft was visible from the gate area.
Unfortunately, another 20 minutes passed before boarding began. It does seem that Air Serbia pads it schedule, however, because event though we took off nearly 30 minutes late we still arrived on-time in Belgrade.
Air Serbia 381
London (LHR) – Belgrade (BEG)
June 19, 2017
Departs at 1:30PM
Arrive at 5:10PM
Seat 1A (Business Class)
Air Serbia Shorthaul Business Class Seat (A319/A320)
Air Serbia recently made the business decision to remove “real” business class seats from its narrowbody fleet. As a result, the comfortable 2-2 Barcalounger-style seats with footrests, generous recline, and in-seat power have been replaced with the same slim-line Recaro economy class seats you now find in economy class. The middle seat is blocked for business class passengers, but it is terribly uncomfortable: there is no other way to say it.
But I understand why Air Serbia did it. Why not? It can get away with it because only Turkish, Aeroflot, and Tarom offer real business class seats on most flights within Europe in business class. The new confirmation allows for a variable configuration: if there are only four business class passengers, only one row of seats is necessary. A movable “curtain” divides the two cabins.
My flight had three passengers in business class (perhaps explaining why Air Serbia feels it need not offer the more premium seats). The curtain was draped over the second row (which I suppose is necessary, lest tray tables behind be blocked).
Avoid row one if you are flying business class. The bulkhead constrains legroom, making it one of the most uncomfortable seats on the plane unless you can angle your legs toward the center aisle. To be clear, seat pitch is better in row one—your knee will not come close to bulkhead in front of you, but you also will be unable to fully stretch out your legs.
For reference, the old seat:
Air Serbia Shorthaul Business Class Amenities
A blanket and pillow we sitting on each business class seat. The pillow is large and provided good back support, making the seat a bit more comfortable. The blanket was fleece-style, made of polyester.
Newspapers were also offered:
Air Serbia Shorthaul Business Class Lavatory
A dedicated lavatory for business class passengers is located in the front of the aircraft. The heavy curtain divining business class from economy class kept out most wanderers. One did come through anyway and was promptly sent back (there was no cart in the aisle at the time).
Air Serbia European Business Class Dining
While Air Serbia may have cut back its industry-leading shorthaul business class seat, it has left intact its superior catering.
A menu was presented shortly after boarding with choice of beverage and cold towel.
Today’s menu included a Serbian mezze starter, choice of stuffed chicken with polenta and herbs or salmon in rosemary sauce, and raspberry cake for desert. A white linen tablecloth was laid prior to serving lunch.
The meal arrived on a single platter and everything was delicious. I realize the chicken looks a bit dried out in the picture, but it was very flavorful.
A stowaway on my raspberry cake:
I had asked for rose wine, featured on the menu, but was informed there was none loaded. Instead, I had some Serbian white wine with my chicken, which was quite satisfactory.
Air Serbia Shorthaul IFE
An iPad with movies, music, games, and TV shows was offered after takeoff. The noise cancelling headphones were better than nothing, but the kind that hurt your ears when left on for too long. I’d rate the content as limited, but enough for a 2.5hr flight. There were eight English movies and about a dozen Serbian movies.
Air Serbia Business Class Service
Honestly, the lack of a real business class seat put me in a bad mood. A foul mood. I had paid a big premium over economy class and the menu, IFE, and even the Air Serbia website (since updated) still advertised the real business class seat.
But then I met Tamara onboard, a wonderfully friendly, engaging FA. She welcomed me onboard with a huge smile and immediately asked what I would like to drink. Later in the flight, she insisted that I try Serbian Rakia, a very strong brandy drink. She suggested plum brandy with honey and I obliged her insistence that I try it.
One gulp was enough…
Tamara’s colleague in the cabin was Slobodan, who was also very friendly and smiled and said, “Too strong?” when he noticed that I was not drinking my Rakia.
My glass was constantly refilled and both Tamara and Slobodan clearly took pride in their work. It always shows.
I cannot speak more highly of the service on this flight. It surely lessened my disappointment over the seat.
I cannot help but to mention once more I was absolutely shocked to walk onboard and find Air Serbia had removed its real business class seats. Had I known, there is no way I would have paid extra for business class considering I had access to three Priority Pass lounges in Terminal 4 that offer excellent food and did not even gain any legroom flying business class.
Still, I was pleased with the meal and elated by the good service on the flight
Coming up, I’ll review business class from Belgrade to New York, which featured the same warm service plus a great lie-flat seat as well.