April 24, 2024

Low Cost Icelandic Airline To Reach Million Passenger Mark In 2023

The low cost airline business is a tough business. The airline world is littered with the carcasses of airlines that tried to fly tons of people thousands of miles at affordable prices. But for now, Icelandic carrier PLAY is enjoying a potentially successful summer schedule

Due to its strategic location between North America and Europe, Iceland is an ideal stopover point for relatively short flights between the two continents. Iceland is also a destination in itself, of course.

What makes PLAY stand out from existing competitors and previous failures? PLAY CEO Birirgir Jónsson points to “a hub and spoke model that connects passengers between North America, Iceland and Europe. All PLAY flights stop in Iceland before continuing to the US or Europe, to pick up travelers between destinations to fill flights. The hub-and-spoke model enables PLAY to provide convenient service and affordable fees.”

PLAY offers service to Iceland and beyond 30 European destinations (including Berlin, Paris, Venice, Warsaw, Prague, Stockholm, London, Madrid and Lisbon) from five major East Coast markets. PLAY flies from Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI), Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), New York Stewart International Airport (SWF), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), and Toronto (YHM). In terms of frequency, PLAY operates daily flights from BOS, BWI, IAD, and SWF to Iceland, with connections to European destinations.

PLAY recently passed its one year mark of US operations. The airline will release its Q2 results later this week.

According to a spokesperson, so far this year its East Coast routes have helped PLAY’s passenger load increase to more than 604,000 people, up 154% compared to the first half of 2022. As of June 2023, PLAY’s load factor was 82.4%. The load factor for June alone was 87.2%, and the airline flew more than 160,000 passengers.

PLAY says it has maintained an 84% on-time arrival rate in 2023. Meanwhile, the airline says it has expanded its fleet to ten aircraft, launched 20 new destinations, and hired 200 new employees to keep up with increased travel demand. According to CEO Jónsson, PLAY is on track to be operationally profitable in 2023.

Based in Reykjavík, Iceland, PLAY operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A320 and A321 neo aircraft. If you fly PLAY, don’t look for Business, First Class or Premium Economy seats. As a true low-cost airline, PLAY operates all-economy aircraft.

For a low-cost carrier, it’s all about the fees. Although airline fares have skyrocketed this summer, PLAY still has some attractive deals.

For example, round trip fare on Play from the New York area to Reykjavik in September and October starting at just $286. The fare comes with several stars. New York’s airport is not JFK or Newark, but Stewart, a former military base that 90 minutes quick bus ride from Manhattan. The airport was previously used by Norwegian Airlines, which favored low-cost international start-ups.

As for the $286 fee itself, that’s for PLAY basic. As with major airlines with Basic Economy, the undisguised goal is to get you an upgrade. PLAY Basic includes fee and taxes and one personal item.

The basic one-way PLAY fare from NY to Iceland on September 26 is $143.20, including fare, taxes and one personal item.

The value of PLAY on the same flight is $237.50, which gets you a fee, taxes, one personal item, priority boarding, a carry-on bag, a 20 kilogram (44 pound) checked bag and seat selection in the middle of the back of the plane. PLAY flex ($335.64) gets you all on this flight, plus a slightly larger checked bag (23kg), seat selection throughout the plane (no XL legroom seats) and “flight flexibility.”

When you arrive in Iceland, you can go to London for as little as $127, or Copenhagen for $155 round trip, PLAY basic.

CEO Jónsson says “We carefully select the destinations we serve, flying out of smaller and more convenient airports such as New York Stewart International Airport, over more populated destinations.” Likewise, “With our no-frills approach to travel, passengers can customize their flight experience with Measure PLAY which enables passengers to make the most of their travel budget by choosing the extras they want.”

PLAY is public listed on the First Nasdaq North Growth Market in Iceland as PLAY.IC. According to CEO Jónsson, the company is owned by more than two thousand shareholders.

We asked CEO Jónsson,Considering COVID and rising oil prices, why did you push to launch a new low-cost airline, considering how many low-cost airlines have failed?”

“The pandemic was a rare opportunity for a successful launch and an opportunity for growth as PLAY was able to acquire new Airbus A321NEO and A320NEO aircraft at a favorable price. PLAY was also able to access specialists and travel experts who were able to join the company right away without being bought out of their jobs with other airlines.”

Jónsson said, “Despite increases in oil prices, PLAY continued with a huge appetite for travel after the pandemic. Although rising oil prices had some impact, PLAY was able to keep prices low enough that transatlantic travel plans were not affected.”

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