While Etihad doesn’t belong to one of the three global alliances, they do have their own “Etihad Airways Partners” group, and several of those carriers are ones in which they have an equity stake.
One of those is Air Serbia, a regional airline based in Belgrade. While the Gulf carriers have largely been prevented from operating fifth freedom routes to the US (aside from Emirates’ Milan to New York flight), the benefit for Etihad is that their partners can operate flights to the US.
As has previously been announced, Air Serbia will be launching 5x weekly flights between Belgrade and New York JFK as of June 23, 2016.
The flight will operate with alternating schedules depending on the day of the week, as follows:
JU500 Belgrade to New York departing 7:30AM arriving 12:00PM
JU501 New York to Belgrade departing 2:40PM arriving 5:30AM (+1 day)
JU500 Belgrade to New York departing 12:55PM arriving 5:25PM
JU501 New York to Belgrade departing 7:30PM arriving 10:20AM (+1 day)
The flight will be operated using a leased Jet Airways Airbus A330-200, featuring 18 business class seats and 236 economy class seats. The business class seats will be in a herringbone configuration, similar to what you’ll find on Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin Atlantic herringbone seats
I find it sort of hilarious that Etihad is basically leasing a plane from one of their partners to one of their other partners.
It’s worth noting that Air Serbia just took delivery of the A330, so they have plenty of time to get it ready for the service to New York.
If you do want to redeem miles on this flight, Air Serbia uses Etihad Guest as their frequent flyer program. One-way award redemption rates between Belgrade and New York are as follows:
- Economy class: 44,970 miles
- Business class: 64,082 miles
While that’s not cheap, do keep in mind that Etihad Guest is both a Citi ThankYou and Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner, and Amex even has a 30% transfer bonus to Etihad Guest at the moment, which would lower the cost to 50,000 Membership Rewards points one-way.
The catch is that the only way to book Air Serbia award tickets is to call Etihad Guest, as these awards aren’t bookable online. So while I’ve ascertained that availability is quite good, you do have to go through the hassle of booking by phone, which can be a time consuming process.
This is a cool new route, which I’d be curious to try at some point. I’ve heard great things about Serbia, so this would be a great opportunity to visit a new country while trying out a new service as well.
Anyone interested in taking the new Air Serbia flight between New York and Belgrade?