In June, Air Serbia began operating a 5x weekly flight between Belgrade and New York, using an Airbus A330 aircraft that they took over from Jet Airways. This represents the airline’s first longhaul route, so is an exciting development for them.
When the route first launched, Air Serbia generously let me run a giveaway for two business class tickets on the new service, which a lucky reader won. I’ve been wanting to try the new route since it was launched, though of course want to pay for the ticket myself.
As I explained in a previous post, the best way to redeem miles on Air Serbia is through the Etihad Guest program, which is transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou.
Well, I just redeemed miles for Tiffany and me to fly from Belgrade to New York (more details on the overall trip shortly), and figured I’d share my experience.
My experience redeeming Etihad Guest miles on Air Serbia
You can’t search Air Serbia award availability online, so technically the only way to inquire about award availability and book is by calling Etihad Guest.
Etihad probably has one of the worst call centers out there for their Etihad Guest department, as the phone prompts are confusing, the call quality is horrible, and the representatives are typically clueless.
In this case I asked about Air Serbia availability for a one-way ticket from Belgrade to New York. The associate put me on hold to check if one-way award tickets are allowed on them (they are). He then checked on availability, and said that my desired date had availability.
The cost for a one-way business class award ticket from Belgrade to New York was 64,082 Etihad Guest miles plus 53EUR, which is extremely reasonable.
As far as Etihad Guest representatives go, this one was pretty good. He took down the passenger names, then sent me an email confirmation to look at to verify that everything was correct, then took down my credit card, and then sent me a finalized email confirmation.
The entire phone call took about 20 minutes, and aside from the horrible call quality and the volume of the hold music being way too loud, was fairly painless.
Now that I looked at my e-ticket, I think I may have figured out a way to search Air Serbia award availability online. Air Serbia business class award tickets use an “I” fare basis. You can search “I” availability on ExpertFlyer, and it looks like Air Serbia typically has three “I” seats per flight between New York and Belgrade. Now, I can’t say with 100% certainty that the two are the same in this instance, but I suspect they are.
I’m really excited to try Air Serbia’s business class product. Based on what I’ve read about them so far, it seems like the catering and service on them is top notch, and I’m also excited to visit Serbia.
Redeeming Etihad Guest miles on Air Serbia is a great deal as well. I transferred over points from American Express Membership Rewards (points earned primarily from cards such as the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card and American Express® Gold Card) back when they had a 30% transfer bonus. That means the one-way ticket cost me 50,000 Membership Rewards points plus 53EUR per person, which seems like a great value for a transatlantic business class ticket.
Stay tuned for the trip report, and perhaps more imminently, more information on this entire trip, which is crazy!
In the meantime, if you’re interested in visiting Serbia, this is a great option with plenty of business class award availability!
Forgot to say-- the "reasonable" part is probably due to the ease of acquiring MR/TYP that can be transferred to Etihad.
@italdesign maybe you are comparing to economy award miles prices? AA for example is 57,500 miles one way for a saver business award to Europe.
"The cost for a one-way business class award ticket from Belgrade to New York was 64,082 Etihad Guest miles plus 53EUR, which is extremely reasonable."
I don't understand the "extremely reasonable" part. It's more expensive than just about every mainstream program (AC, DL, AA, UA...). And it's almost FOUR TIMES of their SN rate if I did my math right.
I had a good experience booking with Etihad Guest. I recently redeemed 51000 Etihad miles for a one way business award on Oman air on FRA-BOM sector.
@Adam Yeah AA miles would be best. You can also tack on another domestic flight to/from JFK as well as another EY flight to/from AUH if you wanted to.
@David W: Thanks for that. I guess it depends on what I have a stockpile of (EY miles or AA miles) and where I'm looking to go. In your opinion, if I wanted just to fly EY Apartments as cheaply mile-wise as possible, which would be easiest? JFK-AUH with AA?
@Zed Amex are instant, but Citi legit took 2 weeks for me
@Adam it depends. AA miles are harder to get via transfers whereas EY miles are easier. EY's award prices are distance based too whereas AA goes by region.
@Lucky - Semi-related question:
Is it better to book Etihad First Apartments with EtihadGuest Miles after transferring from AmEx MR, or to use AAdvantage miles? Is one more lucrative or cost-saving?
I just finished a conference in Belgrade. It's a wonderful city with great food, architecture, and people. Be careful of taxi scams from the airport and tourist populated areas. Legitimate taxi drivers are professional and helpful, even if they don't speak English, and they're incredibly cheap. Scam taxis (I know from experience), charge 10x or more legitimate fares. I got scammed twice, it wounded my ego more than anything, but it also taught me some...
I just finished a conference in Belgrade. It's a wonderful city with great food, architecture, and people. Be careful of taxi scams from the airport and tourist populated areas. Legitimate taxi drivers are professional and helpful, even if they don't speak English, and they're incredibly cheap. Scam taxis (I know from experience), charge 10x or more legitimate fares. I got scammed twice, it wounded my ego more than anything, but it also taught me some lessons (i.e. legit drivers won't seek you out, etc.)
Many places will order taxis for you, and the airport has "taxi info desks" before and after customs that will insure you don't get scammed. If you go before customs you won't have to wade through a crowd of scam drivers to get to it.
I hope you get a chance to visit the Air Serbia premium lounge. I flew Alitalia to Rome which shares their lounge. It's small, but comfortable with an excellent hot buffet and very friendly staff. Either way, enjoy this historic and rich country.
Ben, do you know if Air Serbia kept the interior configuration of the Jet Airways a330 or was it reconfigured to JU's specifications?
@lucky Did you book Air Serbia Round trip. If not, are you planning on coming straight back to the US on another airline after you go to Serbia or, are you going more places to take advantage of cheap fares to review new Airlines
@ Hugh B -- Just one way, as we're flying another airline in the other direction. Stay tuned for the details on that!
Lucky, thanks for this, very helpful!
Could you share, as a datapoint, how long your MR transfer took to reach your Etihad Guest account.
I'm thinking of redeeming on AirSerbia FRA-BEG for the end of this month, but am not sure if the miles will make it in time before the Etihad advance cut-off date for issuing that award.
Also, any idea if it Citi TY points transfer any faster than Amex MRs?
@ Zed -- Membership Rewards is typically instant, while Citi ThankYou takes a few days.
It's me the "lucky" winner! I was successful to book additional ticket for my wife and a lap child using Etihad miles the other day. What surprised me the whole process was all manual. The agent ended calculated wrong mileage for the lap infant only added 1% of the adult ticket to my ticket. I'm really really lucky with Air Serbia. Thanks again!!
@ Raulf -- Hah, AWESOME!