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TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Belgrade – Malta on E190

TRIP REPORT: Air Serbia, Belgrade – Malta on E190

I recently took a flight from Belgrade to Malta with Air Serbia, which was operated by the Greek airline Marathon Airlines using an Embraer E190 (SX-PTM) that is wet-leased to Air Serbia. I chose JU over Wizz Air even though their offer was less expensive because the travel dates and timings worked better for me, and I’ve never flown on a Brazilian aircraft before.

Using the Air Serbia mobile application, I was able to purchase the ticket with a 10% discount and, more importantly, a speedier booking and payment time. The app does, however, have certain security flaws. The application was still using the old password even after I updated it on my account through the web profile. Additionally, you can’t modify the booking to accommodate individual demands if you would like, for example, to purchase additional services (such as a seat, luggage, etc.). You must do it for both directions anfd all passengers. One other observation that is not directly related to the application is that, if you want to purchase tickets for two or more people, it is less expensive to do so individually for each person than to purchase them all at once. In this situation, for this flight to Malta, Air Serbia automatically raised ticket fares by 20% when the number of passengers increased.

The fact that I could now take bus 72 to Terminals 1 and 2 for the first time since the beginning of construction work was a pleasant surprise. Each phase of the passport and security control process was swift. The airport is still under construction, mostly in front of Terminal 1 and on the platform near gates A2-3. In addition, I saw that some new construction had begun on the part of the terminal that was previously completed and is a part of the airport’s new area. I may be mistaken, but it appears to me that the construction beyond passport control and in front of the duty-free shop is not advancing very quickly. Everyone’s comments make it clear that there is an issue with the airport restrooms regarding the smell. What I heard is that there is a problem with the sewage system. This makes sense, as the condition is the same in all the restrooms and they all appear clean. Naturally, this does not excuse the airport’s management from not trying to find a solution.

At the airport in Belgrade, Air Serbia has a policy whereby travellers who have checked in online are invited to the gate prior to boarding so they can verify their travel documents. When it comes to other companies, it’s typically required at the check-in desk (for countries where it is necessary to check documents). Since nearly 80% of the passengers on this aircraft checked in online, there was a longer roll call, during which a line would form before the line again formed for boarding.

Before boarding started, the captain addressed the passengers at the gate and requested that the larger luggage go in the compartments above the seats and the smaller ones go under the seats because the aircraft was a narrow-body, and the flight was full. Additionally, he requested for boarding to begin with passengers seated in rows 16 through 25, in order to land in Malta at the scheduled time. Not sure if this situation is common, but I can say that it had an effect, since so far, I have not seen faster and, let’s say, boarding by the rules. At that moment it was odd to me that there was only one crew member onboard the aircraft. Once boarding was completed, the captain came to the cabin to inform us that one of the crew members had reported feeling sick. As a result, we are currently waiting for a cabin crew member on standby duty to arrive, which will cause us to depart about 20 minutes later than planned but still land in Malta at the scheduled time. That was when I thought back to my severely delayed May flight with Air Serbia, and I hoped that wouldn’t happen again, especially because I haven’t heard back from them regarding my claim, even though they had a 60-day legal deadline for response.

In the meantime, as a true avgeek, I was thrilled to hear the captain’s extensive and detailed explanation of the flight route, weather conditions, and aircraft features. As he had promised, the replacement crew member showed up promptly. The captain then interacted once again and asked to applaud strongly since she had shown up at such short notice, even though this was her day off. And there was a loud cheer across the cabin.

As previously noted, the flight was nearly completely packed; there may have been just a few seats left or a 95% load factor or higher. Although there were some transfer passengers, the majority of the passengers were point to point. The aircraft is in a single economy cabin layout because Air Serbia does not offer business class on it. Despite being over sixteen years old, the Embraer was in excellent shape. Even though the flight was full, you could still feel really comfortable thanks to the excellent and large seats and sufficient legroom (far better than on the A319). I can say that this is definitely one of the most intriguing flights I’ve ever taken and one of the most comfortable aircraft I’ve ever flown on. Air Serbia upgraded the on-board service since my last flight; you now receive branded 0.25 water and one Noblice cookie. It was evident that the crew was professional, friendly, and a well-organised team. One crew member was from Serbia, while the purser, or cabin senior as it is now known, was from Greece.

Someone from the crew at one point, most likely accidentally, switched on the intercom and was singing “We wish you a Merry Christmas”. Greeting the passengers right away afterwards, the captain announced that the crew was feeling festive and that the holidays will soon arrive. That was not all from the captain on this flight; on final approach to Malta’s Luqa Airport, the captain addressed us once again and invited those sitting on the left side to enjoy the scenery as the aircraft flew over Comino Island and the Blue Lagoon. At the exit door, the captain thanked the passengers and hoped they had enjoyed the flight. Of course, if you were thinking that it was all from the captain, then no, no, no. Taking into account that a family with a small child was waiting for a baby carriage in front of the bus and that the Maltese generally understand the concept of fast service differently, the captain went to the opposite side of the aircraft and brought the baby carriage himself.

Since online check-in for the return trip was not possible, it was necessary to arrive at Malta Airport earlier than expected. Although the airport is quite well-run overall, there were a few delayed flights, making it hard to find anywhere to sit. The same Embraer operated on the return leg as well, and because approximately ten of the passengers were from the inbound flight, we commented it would be ideal if the same crew flew. But that wasn’t the case, but still, the crew was professional. Furthermore, the comfort level was even better on this flight because the LF was between 70 and 80%.

To sum up, I can say that the Embraer is the ideal aircraft for flights up to two hours in duration. Passport control was swift, and at the exit from the arrivals terminal I noticed an interesting, let’s call it a room, where there was a large number of luggage, which obviously did not arrive at the desired destination with the owner.

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