As much as I loved Air Serbia and recommend its flagship route between New York and Belgrade, there are a few things you should be aware of when flying on its new Airbus A330-200 in business class.
Air Serbia A330-200 Business Class Review
I booked my ticket for 70K Air Canada Aeroplan miles plus C$130 in taxes, part of an Istanbul – Belgrade – New York itinerary in business class. You can easily check space on the Air Canada website. Air Serbia also partners with Etihad Guest. With Etihad, a one-way flight between BEG-JFK costs 64,082 miles. A one-way revenue ticket cost $2,144, meaning I received about three cents per point in value.
We arrived at Belgrade Airport about 2.5 hours before our flight and found a dedicated check-in line for the New York flight; one line for business class and one line for economy class. Before even entering the line, an agent wanted to verify we had COVID-19 tests. We had obtained a test a couple nights before in Istanbul, which we were able to use to enter both Serbia and the United States.
While checking in, our tests were again briefly examined, a boarding pass was issued, and we were directed to the lounge upstairs, first passing through passport control.
You can read a full review of the Air Serbia Premium Lounge here, but it is definitely worth a visit and a lounge I always enjoy for its superior coffee and a la carte menu.
> Read More: Air Serbia Premium Lounge Belgrade (BEG) Review
Security + Boarding
Rather than a central security checkpoint, security takes place at each gate in Belgrade. Because this was a a USA-bound flight, we were asked to take off our shoes and electronic devices from our bag.
As we entered the boarding area, I stopped to admire the beautiful new Nikola Telsa livery on the A330-200.
After proceeding through security into a large gate holding area, we lined up for boarding. Business class passengers boarded through one door and economy class passengers through another.
Although the boarding pass indicated boarding would commence one hour prior to departure, it actually began about 45 minutes prior to departure.
Air Serbia (JU) 500
Belgrade (BEG) – New York (JFK)
Saturday, May 15
Duration: 10hr, 00min
Aircraft: A330-200 (YU-ARB)
Distance: 4,511 miles
Seat: 2H (Business Class)
Stepping onboard, I was welcomed by a flight attendant and directed through the front galley to my seat on the starboard side of the plane.
Air Serbia took delivery of this aircraft, YU-ARB, in April 2021, an A330-200 that was in the Aeroflot fleet for many years. Aeroflot offered angled-lie flat seats in business class, but Air Serbia pulled them out and retrofitted new seats onboard.
The cozy business class cabin has 21 seats spread over four rows in an alternating 1-2-2, 1-2-1 configuration. Air Serbia chose Thompson Vantage for its new business class seat. You’ll find a similar configuration (albeit larger business class cabin) onboard an Aer Lingus A330. These seats are also used by Austrian, Delta, and SWISS. All seats are lie-flat and 19/21 passengers have direct aisle access.
Prior to 2021, Air Serbia used an ex-Jet Airways Airbus A330 aircraft on the route with herringbone seats in business class, a 1-1-1 configuration with only 18 seats.
I chose the throne seat in 3K and put my friend in 2K because 2H and 4H were taken. The gentleman seated in 2H was happy to switch with me to a private “throne” seat. I thought 5K was reserved for crew rest, but it remained empty during the flight.
The cabin departed with 16/21 seats occupied.
This is one of my least favorite business class seats (though I slightly prefer it to the herringbones seats on Air Serbia’s former A330-200) because I find the foot space to be constricted when sleeping, but this was less of a problem in the bulkhead, with more space to spread out.
Seats are controlled by a push-button and include adjustable lumbar support and a massage function.
In the console adjacent to the seat is a power plug with rapid charging USB port, reading light, and storage for a water bottle. Inside the armrest is a passenger service unit (remote) for the in-flight-entertainment.
The seat also included a leather-mesh pocket, which served as an ideal place to store my wallet and passport.
Bedding included a plush pillow in a blue Air Serbia-branded pillowcase and a thick gray duvet.
Although I tried to sleep during the flight, I could not. I’ll blame the daytime hours and caffeine, though I’ve always had issues sleeping on this seat.
In case you were wondering, the economy cabin class cabin was arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration, which minimized middle seats.
Food + Drinks
As I was boarding, a flight attendant was I the process of placing menus on each seat. Lunch was served after takeoff followed by a on-demand dining for the remainder of the flight.
Due to the pandemic, hot towels were not offered. In their place, moist towelettes were presented along with a pre-departure beverage choice of orange juice, sparkling wine, or water.
The Nikola Tesla-themed menu for the flight included both JU500 (BEG-JFK) and JU501 (JFK-BEG).
Shortly after takeoff, flight attendants carefully set the table for lunch, including a tablecloth, salt and pepper shaker, olive oil, butter, bread, a butter knife, and and more cutlery wrapped in a napkin. I appreciated that no trays were used.
A choice of beverage and warmed mixed nuts (almond and cashews) were also offered.
We both ordered the Serbian mezze for our starter (including gibanica [a pastry made with cottage cheese and eggs], kajmak [similar to clotted cream], smoked beef, cucumber with ajvar [a relish made of eggplant and sweet bell peppers], Njeguški pršut [dry-cured ham from Montenegro], and Čvarci [pork rinds].
However, we were both served Pihtije instead (also called aspic), a Serbian gelatin dish usually made from cheaper parts of pork such as the head, shank, or hock. Quite frankly, it looked disgusting and we immediately told the flight attendant that we ordered the mezze dish instead.
She did not respond and walked away. When she returned with wine, I told her again and she said there may not be an mezze left. I asked her to please find at least one and she walked away again. When she returned (empty handed), I asked her to take away the Pihtije and she looked horrified that we would waste it.
I hate wasting food too, but I’m not going to eat gelatin filled with leftover pork parts just to be polite.
I first tried the Serbian rosé wine, but found it a bit too sweet.
I switched to a Chardonnay, which was still on the sweet side, but much better.
Our main courses arrived a few minutes later and we still did not have an appetizer. My friend ordered the beefsteak in gravy with potatoes au gratin, sautéed broccoli, and cherry tomatoes.
I tired a bite and found it too well-done, but of good quality.
I ordered turkey with mlinci (thinly-dried flatbread) in a blue cheese sauce and sautéed brussels sprouts. It’s rare to see turkey on the an airplane, and like so many Thanksgiving dinners, the turkey was quite dry, despite the sauce.
High marks for the presentation, though, and the mlinci was delicious.
A few minutes after lunch was served, the flight attendant re-appeared with the mezze appetizer. This turned out to be the highlight of the meal.
“Baron” chocolate cake with raspberries was offered for dessert, which I enjoyed with a cappuccino. While not as tasty as the cappuccinos in the lounge, it was perfectly adequate and certainly not powdered.
A La Carte Dining
Air Serbia offered a “dine anytime” menu for the remainder of the flight which includes a mix of breakfast and lunch/dinner dishes like pancakes, omelettes, sandwiches, and dumplings.
Prior to landing, I ordered the dumplings, served in a cream sauce with spring salad.
While the dumplings were not quite what I was expecting (fried and filled only with potatoes), it was a nice light dish and I enjoyed a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice with it followed by fruit and an espresso for dessert.
Overall, Air Serbia offers a respectable menu of food, beautiful presentation, and good service flow. That said, the whole appetizer issue was weird (it wasn’t a language issue – all the flight attendants spoke excellent English) and the turkey was too dry.
In-Flight Entertainment + Wi-Fi
A 10-hour daytime fight is a longtime to go without wi-fi. While Air Serbia’s former A330-200 featured wireless internet onboard (complimentary for business class passengers), its new A330 does not offer wireless internet.
I always prepare for no internet onboard and had completed all my work prior to the flight, but being able to stay on top of email and text messages is always appreciated. Certainly a sign of the times, but I went a little stir crazy not being able to stay connected to the outside world, though I enjoyed great conversation onboard with my friend.
The IFE library was also limited, with only about two dozen movies, including very few recent releases.
The library of TV shows, music, and games was also limited.
I ended up watching The Golden Compass, a 2007 movie starring Nicole Kidman.
Noise-cancelling headphones worked well.
Amenity Kit + Pajamas + Slippers
I greatly appreciated that Air Serbia still offers comfortable slippers and pajamas in business class. I’ve worn out my old pair of pajamas at home and was happy to get a new set. The trousers have pockets and the v-neck shirt is very soft and ages well after several machine washes.
The amenity kit included;
- cotton pads
- emery board
- ear plugs
- eye shade
- lip balm + skin creme from Scaramouche + Fandango
The lavatory onboard was cleaned after each use, with a fresh seat cover placed on the toilet and toilet paper folded. No additional amenities were available in the lavatory.
Service started off questionably, but got better. I already discussed the appetizer incident, but I felt a general coldness from the flight attendants during the early part of the flight, a very different experience from Aida onboard the Istanbul – Belgrade flight. Smiles seemed forced and the crew seemed to be going through the motions, though still at a higher level than many carriers.
But in the middle of the flight, while most were sleeping, my friend and I decided to do a rakia tasing. The purser was delighted that we wanted to try this and poured a bottle of each flavor (plum, apricot, pear, and quince) for us to try along with more nuts. She explained how rakia was made and stood by as we sampled it.
It was a very nice touch and showed professionalism, national pride, and the sort of personalized service that I have come to expect on Air Serbia.
Disclosure: I preferred pear over the others, but actually didn’t much care for it. Too strong for me. But I did try it!
We landed in New York JFK on schedule and taxied to the gate in Terminal 1. Although immigration lines were long, my friend and I both have Global Entry and were able to breeze through passport control. After saying goodbye, I headed over to TWA Hotel enroute to Terminal 5 where I would fly JetBlue home to Los Angeles.
My Air Serbia flight was good overall and Air Serbia is easily one of the best, if not the best carrier from Eastern Europe. While the service was not as polished as the IST-BEG sector, the food was merely edible, not great, and the lack of wi-fi and limited IFE selection made the flight longer than necessary, I still recommend Air Serbia as a great redemption option and a comfortable journey.