Air Serbia’s New A330 Entering Service

Filed Under: Air Serbia

About a month ago I wrote about how Air Serbia is swapping its sole Airbus A330 for another A330. We now have more information about when this plane will enter service, and what the business class product will look like.

The story of Air Serbia’s current Airbus A330

Serbian national airline Air Serbia has operated a single Airbus A330-200 since 2016:

  • The airline acquired this plane when it was 49% owned by Etihad Airways; Etihad has since decreased its stake in the airline
  • The airplane was leased from Jet Airways at the time, which was another airline that Etihad partly owned, though it has liquidated in the meantime
  • The airline has used the A330 to fly between Belgrade and New York, a route that has (surprisingly?) lasted for around five years now

I’ve flown Air Serbia’s A330 a couple of times, and have really enjoyed the product. While the hard product is just okay, the service and catering have been exceptional, in my experience.

I love Air Serbia’s business class catering

Air Serbia replacing its Airbus A330

Air Serbia will be replacing its current Airbus A330-200 with a different Airbus A330-200:

  • An A330 with the registration code YU-ARB has joined Air Serbia’s fleet; the plane is 12 years old, and previously flew for Aeroflot
  • As a point of comparison, the original A330 with the registration code YU-ARA was 13 years old, so this plane is just slightly younger
  • Unfortunately it appears that this A330 replaces the existing plane, rather than complementing it; at one point there were discussions about Air Serbia launching a Belgrade to Toronto flight, but it looks like that’s not happening
  • Does anyone actually know the backstory here? I get that leases are typically for a defined period, but you’d think any company would want to offer extended leases right now, so did Air Serbia just get a better deal on this ex-Aeroflot plane, or…?

This Airbus A330 has just been painted in a special livery, featuring Nikola Tesla on the tail. Belgrade Airport is also named after him. I’m not sure what to make of the livery:

  • On the one hand, it looks modern and stands out
  • On the other hand, it quite literally looks like a cross between Lufthansa’s new livery and Norwegian’s livery, and I feel like those who don’t know who Tesla is will be rather confused

Air Serbia’s new A330 enters service April 26

It looks like we now know when Air Serbia’s newest A330 will enter service — looking at seatmaps, Air Serbia’s “old” A330 will operate its last flight from New York to Belgrade on April 24, while Air Serbia’s “new” A330 will operate its first flight from Belgrade to New York on April 26.

So we’re just around two weeks from the airline swapping flagship aircraft.

Air Serbia’s new A330 business class

Many have wondered what new business class product Air Serbia will install on this A330. Air Serbia’s first A330 had herringbone business class seats (similar to what you’ll find on Virgin Atlantic), which were inherited from Jet Airways. While not my favorite seats in the world, at least they’re fully flat and offer direct aisle access.

Air Serbia’s current A330 business class

Aeroflot’s A330-200s, on the other hand, feature angled seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. These are the seats that the plane used to have, though fortunately these aren’t the seats that Air Serbia will maintain.

Aeroflot’s A330 business class

Instead Air Serbia will be introducing a new staggered business class product on its A330, which should almost be identical to what you’ll find on Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus A330 business class


Aer Lingus A330 business class

For context, Air Serbia’s old A330 has 18 business class seats in a 1-1-1 configuration.


Air Serbia’s old A330 seatmap

Meanwhile Air Serbia’s new A330 has 21 business class seats, in a staggered 1-2-2 and 1-2-1 configuration.


Air Serbia’s new A330 seatmap

How do the two products compare? It depends who you ask:

  • The herringbone seats had the advantage of all having direct aisle access
  • The staggered seats have the advantage of not facing away from the aisles, and allowing couples to sit together

I probably have a slight preference for the new seats.

How to redeem miles on Air Serbia

Air Serbia releases plenty of business class award availability between New York and Belgrade, often four business class award seats per flight. This is a great opportunity. There are two best ways to book these seats:

  • Redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles — you’ll pay 70,000 miles for a one-way journey in business class of up to 6,000 miles, but you can add a connection and stopover in Belgrade for just 5,000 miles, which is potentially a great deal; for example, you could fly from New York to Belgrade, have a stopover, and then continue to just about anywhere else in Europe
  • Redeem Etihad Guest miles — you’ll pay 64,082 miles one-way in business class for the nonstop segment, and any additional flights would have additive pricing

Plan a stopover in Belgrade with an Aeroplan award

Bottom line

Air Serbia’s current A330 is scheduled to operate its last flight on April 24, while Air Serbia’s new A330 is scheduled to operate its first flight on April 26.

From a passenger experience standpoint, the major difference is that the old A330 had herringbone seats in business class (similar to Virgin Atlantic), while the new A330 has staggered seats in business class (similar to Aer Lingus). Personally I think I prefer the new seats, though it’s marginal.

Air Serbia continues to be a great airline for redeeming miles across the Atlantic.

Anyone plan to fly Air Serbia’s new A330 between New York and Belgrade?

(Tip of the hat to EX-YU Aviation)

Comments
  1. Maybe when they were launching the Toronto route, they had already committed to buying the second A330? And as the lease for the original one evidently was expiring, maybe they just let it go now they don’t need the second aircraft.

  2. Another downgrade appears to be the lack of a Wifi radome on the new a330 compared to the old one. Also, interesting to see the change in engine type…

  3. Aeroflot’s A330s do not have wifi, and the hard product in Business is definitely a massive downgrade from the ex-Jet Airways 1-1-1 lie-flat seats… YU-ARB is VP-BLY, one of the denser (34C vs 30C) A332s from Aeroflot’s fleet. Unfortunately the four extra seats fit not because an extra row is added or anything…they actually use a different seat, with less seat pitch and as far as I know a steeper angle when in bed mode. Basically, Air Serbia has just taken over a plane that has the worst of Aeroflot’s long haul premium hard products…

  4. New plane will have 21 seats in J and 236 in Y, so I guess it will be retrofitted with new seats.

  5. Maybe the old one had unfavorable terms and lease rates and the new one doesn’t? Aircraft ownership cost matter.

  6. I like the new livery as much as i liked the old one .
    Similarities to other airline designs occur but that should only concern a minority .
    Actually Air Serbia has one of the best liveries in todays aviation .
    This airline is totally underestimated, but that is understandable for the niche market it serves .
    Still last year their New York flights went on successfully despite covid .

    Thumbs up Lucky for mentioning this rare route from time to time !

  7. I’ve flown their old A330 to JFK once and it was one of the absolute worst flights I’ve ever had. The food was inedible, the “champagne” was disgusting. The seat was extremely uncomfortable and I’m thin and short.

    The only positive was that the WiFi was extremely fast (and free thanks to iPass). Seems like their new A330 is even worse, and won’t even have WiFi. Hard pass from me.

  8. Lease is supposed to be 40% less, something like 220K a month per Airliners… Also the interior is rumored to be similar to Aer Lingus with JU colors.

  9. I’m not a fan of the business class product on Aeroflot’s old 330-200s. I usually fly from Vladivostok to Miami in winter to escape the Russian cold for a few weeks, and that type was the usual plane on the SVO-MIA route. Luckily, they are replacing it with the new 350s. I can’t wait to try out the new business class product!

  10. Leases are typically timed around major maintenance events. Airbus has a major airframe check at 12 years so it’s likely the lease was ending.

    Air Serbia could have gotten a great deal to extend but there is an oversupply in the A330 market that was a major problem even before coronavirus. They likely got an even better deal on the replacement aircraft.

  11. @ Ben, actually she’s have today been flown in to WOE (NL) to receive a new interior with a Business Class Staggered Lie-Flat interior.

  12. @Lucky: A lot of people don’t know who Nikola Tesla was, or believe it is a name invented by Mr Musk. How does would confuse people I do not know. A lot of Lufthansa’s aircraft are named after obscure places in Germany nobody has heard of either, and this doesn’t seem to have any material effect on their passenger numbers.

  13. Glad to know that Air Serbia invests in the new business class seats. I would take a staggered layout over herringbone (or angled seats, for that matter) on any given day.

  14. Nikola Tesla was a Serbian/American engineer who basically invented our electrical distribution systems and the a/c electric motors that we use today. He had a huge fight with Edison who was in favour of a dc power distribution system. Edison had better lawyers and was a tad unethical so won the patent battle but a/c won the war.

    But who is the dude on the Alaska Tail?

  15. My previous comment was written before details about the new hard product they’re installing were added, so disregard everything I wrote about aeroflot’s 2-2-2 business class. The Thompson vantage seats aren’t too bad…and only two seats in the entire 21-seat cabin won’t have direct aisle access, so that’s not that bad either!

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