Play Airlines: Iceland’s newest low-cost airline offers cheap flights to Europe

American travelers dreaming of spending a summer vacation sipping wine in Tuscany or driving the Icelandic Diamond Circle now have easier access to cheap flights to Europe, thanks to a new low-cost Icelandic airline. price. Budget carrier Play is set to launch service from four US airports to Reykjavik and 22 European destinations this year. The new airline will launch its first US routes from Baltimore-Washington Airport in April, followed by Boston Logan in May, Stewart International in New York’s Hudson Valley in June and Orlando in October. .

Of Play’s European flights, all will connect through its base in Reykjavik, there are destinations like Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, London, Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Gothenburg (Sweden), Bologna (Italy) and Tenerife (Canary Islands).

Promotional fares celebrating the airline’s launch have been as low as $109 and $129 for one-way flights; promotions aside, June flights from New York-Stewart to Reykjavik cost as little as $133 one-way, while trips from New York-Stewart to London Stansted currently cost less than $450 round-trip.

Play is able to offer such competitive fares in part thanks to its hub-and-spoke model, which allows the airline to keep costs low, says CEO Birgir Jónsson. “Because it’s not a direct flight, we basically make sure we’re always one of the newest and cheapest options available,” says Jónsson.

The main competitor of the new airline, Icelandair, is already reacting to the evolution of its domestic market by announcing its own ticket saleswith summer flights from the US to Europe starting at $399.

What to expect on board

Play flys Airbus A320neo single aisle with economy class cabins. The airline’s seats are a little roomier than those of other low-cost carriers – with 34 inches of seat spacing and less than 200 seats per plane, according to the industry site just fly.

“We’re just trying to make people feel comfortable during the time they’re there, recognizing that no one actually wants to be on a plane,” says Jónsson. “I mean, I always laugh a little bit when people start talking about those transformative customer experiences on a plane, which is good if you’re, you know, Emirates or something. [But] we get people from A to B safely, at the right price, at the right time.

The airline plans to grow its fleet from three to six aircraft as it begins operations in US markets this spring. By 2025, it plans to have a total of 15 Airbus A320neos and A321neos featuring bold cherry red exteriors, all brand new jets fresh off the assembly line.

Similar to other low-cost airlines, Play’s affordable fares come with additional pay-as-you-go fees, such as baggage (starting at $44 for a checked bag and $34 for a carry-on bag for US flights) and seat assignments (between $6 and $48 for US flights). Flights can also be tailored to include a stopover in Iceland at no additional cost, a bonus for travelers with the Land of Fire and Ice on their travel wishlist.

A flexible business model

Play’s maiden flight was from Reykjavik to London Stansted in June 2021. It wasn’t the only low-cost airline to launch during the pandemic – seemingly counter-intuitive timing that also provided positive benefits. Play’s passenger load factor (a key industry metric that measures the amount of an airline’s passenger carrying capacity used) was 53% in 2021; not bad considering its start-up condition and overall industry average by 58 percent. In addition, Jónsson claims that the favorable agreements the carrier has secured for its fleet of narrow-body Airbuses provide a significant competitive advantage.

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