After a week, I was ready to go home. My flight was on July 1, the day the Universiade Games were starting in Belgrade, the largest sporting event in the world this year and the second largest in general (after the Olympics). After checking in my luggage, the guy at the desk told me it was my lucky day and that I have been upgraded to business class. Apparently they overbooked the flight. That was good enough for me. Offcourse this meant that the flight was completely full. The airport in Abu Dhabi is nothing special. A huge circular building with green and blue tiles. I imagine that Eithad’s newly opened terminal is much nicer. As I waited for our flight to board at the gate I noticed that the majority of passengers were connecting from flights from Australia and many passengers were actually Macedonian and transiting in Belgrade onwards to Skoplje and Ohrid. Boarding began on time and quickly everyone was on board. I was surprised that the plane was not full (around 25% of seats were empty) which led me to wonder why I was upgraded and how come they were overbooked. There was another person in business class. It was a Serbian Orthodox priest coming from Sydney, as he told me. He is actually the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Australia. He also got upgraded.
The B737-300 which was flying us to Belgrade (via Larnaca for the short technical stop) had a big “official carrier of Universiade” sticker near the entry door. To my surprise there were 7 cabin crew onboard. This is odd since there are usually 4 (2 for business and 2 for economy). They were all middle aged. I asked one of the crew how come it was overbooked and she told the plane was going to be full from Larnaca. This B737-300 has new seats in economy (blue leathered seats with silver coloured tray tables). The seats looked comfortable and they actually seemed to be thinner (don’t know how to say it in English) than the old seats. The business class seats are the same as they used to be except they obviously put new leather because the seats were not creased and worn out. The purser read out the standard welcoming message and extended a special welcome to the Sri Lankan Universiade sportsmen and women which were travelling with us. We were given a welcome drink (from a plastic cup for some reason), the safety demo was done and we departed. The 3 cabin crew members that were working in business were all very polite. The purser mostly did some paperwork in the galley. When we departed they served more drinks and gave everyone some peanuts. The pilot soon after announced all the countries we would fly over. The cabin crew then started serving breakfast. Since I had some at the hotel I really wasn’t hungry so I passed up the opportunity. From what I saw it was an omelette with sausages and some fruit.
The next few hours of the flight were pretty uneventful. Unlike the usual entertainment you would get from listening to the Jat crew chatting, they were surprisingly quiet and didn’t talk much.
We landed in Larnaca really early (30 minutes ahead of schedule). When we landed the crew said that passengers continuing to Belgrade were not to leave the aircraft and that refuelling would be done quickly and that we would depart within 40 minutes. The crew also said for everyone to sit back at their allocated seats because the flight from Larnaca was full. After 40 minutes we were still waiting in the aircraft, parked next to a Transaero 747 waiting for the passengers to arrive. Since we were not at the gate air-conditioning was not on and everyone wanted to die from the heat. Because we landed so early we had to wait much longer than usual for the passengers to board. Finally the first passengers arrived. It was mostly Serbian ex-pats living in Cyprus with young children that boarded. Then we waited a further 20 minutes in the heat and the business class passengers were served cold drinks (thankfully). The people in economy got nothing during the wait. The plane was now full except for 3 seats in business. Then the big surprise came. Serbia’s first lady Tatjana Tadic boarded the aircraft with her 2 children. She was carrying around 50 Dolce and Gabana, Chanel and Louis Viton shopping bags. The crew was offcourse running around her the whole time. Another big surprise was that the entire cabin crew changed and new crew boarded. This is unusual since the crew from Abu Dhabi is always the same from Larnaca to Belgrade. The new crew were also all middle aged. I asked one of them how come they changed and she told me that since they have a lot of flights to Larnaca some going onwards to Abu Dhabi and some going straight back to Belgrade they now often swapped. After 1 and 20 minutes they finally shut the doors but then the pilot said that we are delayed by another 40 minutes due to heavy traffic on the route we were supposed to fly. There was a huge groan back from economy and some guy started shouting, offcourse Serbian, that Jat is the worst airline in the world. The stewardess just told him it wasn’t their fault. The guy was pretty rude and swore at her and told her that it was their fault. She just ignored him and went the other way. They then finally started serving drinks back in economy and they served drinks again in business. The first lady didn’t seem too phased by the delay and spent most of the time we were on the ground typing something in her mobile phone. Finally after 50 minutes and a total 2 hours in LCA we departed.
The airport in Belgrade was packed. Since the Universiade Games were opening that evening there were people everywhere. The Chinese delegation was at passport control and there were around 200 of them. Thankfully the passport line for Serbian citizens is quick. My bags were one of the first off the carousel and I went home.
Overall it was a very good flight. The crew was very professional. The only downside was the long delay in LCA but since we only arrived with one hour delay it wasn’t that bad.
My next flight with Jat will be in August and it’s a charter to Spain. Jat is very infamous when it comes to its charter operations. I will see how I go.
[Edited 2009-07-07 08:13:01]
[Edited 2009-07-07 08:14:31]