Written by Miroslav Al. Mešanović
I purchased my Economy Light fare ticket on June 3, almost 2 months before my flight through the Air Serbia website. The price was 13,300 RSD (about 112 EUR). As usual, the purchase on the website was easy and smooth. There was also a small discount applied through a registered account on the website. As I had no intention of bringing checked baggage to avoid any hassle as online check-in is working again, there was no need to purchase a priority check-in service. However, it should be noted that this service as a standalone service costs more than in the 2+1 service package.
JU270 Hannover /August 26/
As soon as the opportunity to check in started, I checked in online and had my boarding pass printed at home. I always feel somewhat special reading -sequence number 1- on my boarding pass.
On departure day, I arrived at the airport just over 2 hours before the flight. I went for a short walk to check on the situation at terminal 2. Even though the screens instructed passengers bound for Hannover to check in at check-in island 2, the ground agent was redirecting everyone to the rather crowded island 3. Check-in machines which were acquired some time ago were put to work so I tested them and had the industry standard boarding pass printed in one minute, then I went upstairs for the not so long security check. Once I approached the person in charge of boarding pass control, he told me that I was in the wrong line since Etihad Guest members should use the priority line! Just to note that my subscription is Basic (lowest) but this is not visible on my boarding pass. Only 2 x-rays were in operation which added to the extra time it took to get through security, but I was lucky enough to be the ‘guest’. At 04:55 I walked from Tesla Square to C-Pier to check out gate C4 and people were queuing at every open coffee/drink stand. WOW! Coming back to the Air Serbia Premium lounge, I had to wait outside for the first time, because a lot of people showed up at 5am sharp. The service is ok (although for the first time I had to go to the bar and bring my coffee to the table once it was prepared). The new buffet service/offer leaves a lot to be desired but OK. About 40 minutes before departure time, I headed for gate C4.
Boarding started at 06:28 and it was a zoned boarding. Since my seat was 2A, I was in zone 2. At 06:34 it was finally time for me to board and at 06:42 the cabin crew announced that boarding was over. The seat headrests now feature a special anniversary design. Prior to the pushback, the captain addressed the cabin with basic flight information, stating that it would take 1 hour 40 minutes to arrive at the destination in good weather conditions. The Airbus A319 YU-APE had 130 passengers, 3 in business class and the rest in economy class. We finally pushed back at 06:57 and started riding at 07:00. A smooth take off from Runway 12 took us west along the Sava River with beautiful views of Obrenovac and Sabac (including the nearly completed bridge over the Ruma-Sabac highway). On its way, the plane flew over Graz. The economy class catering on this 90+ minute flight was a surprise – instead of a signature packet of “Čačanski” crisps, we were given two individually wrapped “Noblice” and a bottle of water a bit more larger than before (0.33L instead of 0.25L). After informing the crew of the start of the descent at 08:22, the aircraft landed safely at Hannover Langenhagen Airport at 08:51 (estimated arrival: 08:45). Being in row 2, I was able to get through German passport control in no time at 09:05. Just to note that there were 2 German Federal Police (professional and pleasant without any hassle) on duty for non-EU citizens that morning.
Lower Saxony, whose capital is Hanover, offers many places to visit. Besides the Herrenhäuser Garden of the Royal House of Hanover, the capital offers a few attractive museums, an iconic town hall and an excellent zoo. But real gems are to be found in the province – old towns like Hildesheim with 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and an exquisite Egyptian Museum or Hameln with its preserved old town (15th century houses) where the story of Rat Catcher happened for real.
JU275 Belgrade /August 29/
For the return, I opted for an upgrade offer of 7,800 RSD (65 EUR) and on my first evening in Hannover, I received a confirmation email. The seat assigned to me was 1A. As Air Serbia does not offer online check-in from Hanover, you have to go to the airport to complete all the formalities.
Getting to any of Germany’s major airports by public transport shouldn’t be a problem, however, Deutsche Bahn made the day! The suburban train (SBahn) on the S5 line was late to the terminus station and soon it was announced that the train would miss Hannover central station and the airport. So a word of advice to everyone – the alternative is to use line U1 to Langenhagen (the city where the airport is located) and take bus 470 to the airport.
Finally, at 7.40 pm (1h15 before the scheduled departure) I arrived at Terminal C where 3 check-in counters were available for the Air Serbia flight with one of the counters dedicated to business class passengers. However, since there were no passengers waiting to check in, only one counter was occupied and I was done within a minute. Curiously, the agent gave me economy class tags for the two carry-on bags. Before I even started my trip to the airport, it was clear that YU-APN to Hannover would be late since the plane had been late from its previous flight to/from Athens. The plane took off from Belgrade at 7:35 p.m. instead of 6:10 p.m. At that time there were only 2 international departures from Hannover – Air Serbia to Belgrade and Sunexpress to Kayseri. Only one security check lane was working and the officers were extremely slow. Needless to say, there was no fast lane available for business class passengers. In the end, only one federal police officer was on duty to check the passports. The airport itself is neither big nor small and during the day it can be dynamic and interesting. However, in the evening almost all the shops are closed and they keep a cafe bar open and a small Duty Free. Even the airport lounges close at 7 p.m. sharp.
Finally, at 9:19 p.m. my bird parked at gate C16. Fifteen minutes later, people started making their way to the grandstand outside the door, some of them making comments about why a lady in a wheelchair was boarded first. Finally, at 9:47 p.m., all passengers are invited to board the plane. No zoned boarding no priority.
I had boarded the plane unnoticed by the crew and had to deposit my luggage by myself in the overhead compartment. Minutes after one of the cabin crew informed the cabin manager – oh, one of the business class passengers had arrived! I was approached by Vladimir who had practically entered my private area (I am Serbian and private area is usually not a problem) and introduced himself and his senior colleague: “Dobro veče gospodine. Good evening Sir “. After getting an answer from me in Serbo-Croatian, he continued: “My name is Vladimir and together with my colleague Aleksandar I will be at your disposal during the flight tonight. Here is the menu, take your time before order, and would you like some newspapers?” A few minutes later Vladimir was back ready to take my order, going step by step from appetizer to choice of coffee.
At 9:56 p.m., boarding was complete – 65 passengers in total, 2 in business class and 63 in economy class. Plane postponed at 10:05 p.m. and finally at 10:20 p.m. we take off for Belgrade. The safety demonstration was interrupted by the captain giving basic information about the flight.
As soon as the “fasten your seatbelt” sign went out, the crew began economy class service, which was extremely fast. At that time Vladimir brought my plum rakija and mineral water. Two details are worth mentioning – YU-APN did not have a curtain behind the business class row and Air Serbia now serves water in disposable plastic cups although marked. Ten minutes later, Aleksandar asked me if I was ready for my meal to be served. The meatball gnocchi in tomato sauce was nicely warmed up and the wine was nicely chilled. Metal cutlery was provided. Vladimir was again very attentive coming to check if everything was ok and if I needed anything else. The Elevate Deli&Bar offer was rather limited since the crew had sold out all the sandwiches on the way to Hanover. The passenger had to satisfy his hunger with salty snacks such as crisps or peanuts.
The business class toilets were clean but had no dedicated amenities (I used to have at least some hand cream before).
The remainder of the flight was uneventful and at 23:53 the aircraft landed. After waiting about 5 minutes for Fly Dubai to clear the traffic lane, YU-APN parked at Gate C4 where Larnaca-bound passengers were waiting to board. On the way to passport control I could notice that JU886 in Larnaca was 50 minutes late. There is some minor work at the arriving passenger level and both transit offices were unattended.
All in all another enjoyable round trip with Air Serbia. Based on their operations during the summer season, I was counting on delays but in the end it was OK compared to the situation in the rest of Europe. The cabin crew were charming and attentive although there was certainly room for some improvement.
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