A new low-cost option across the Atlantic: Icelandic airline Play expands to the United States

Dec 16, 2021

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Play, the latest low-cost carrier based in Iceland, announced Thursday that it will begin operating flights connecting Europe with the United States, treading a path well-worn by now-defunct carrier Wow.

Play began service earlier this year with flights between Keflavik Airport (KEF) near the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik to London’s Stansted Airport (STN), quickly expanding to around 20 destinations. Several of Wow’s former management team sit at the helm of Play.

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The airline said it will launch the U.S. service from Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) and Boston’s Logan airport (BOS) to its entire European network, transiting through its Keflavik hub — similar to how Wow operated.

Flights from Baltimore will begin on April 20 while service from Boston starts on May 11.

You can expect attractive introductory discounted fares between London (STN) and Boston (BOS) or Baltimore (BWI) to celebrate the new routes as flights are loaded later today though exact fare prices have not yet been revealed at time of publication. The nonstop London to Boston route is already very competitive, with at least five major airlines offering regular service in 2022. Play will have to offer very low prices to convince passengers to take the longer journey via Iceland, rather than flying the convenient direct option.

Screenshot from Google Flights

Play operates a fleet of Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft. TPG U.K.’s Ben Smithson had a chance to fly the airline between Keflavik and London earlier this year, and found it to be a great experience by low-cost carrier standards.

It remains unclear how Play expects to succeed using the Wow business model. The latter airline collapsed in 2019, during the peak of pre-pandemic travel demand. Economically sustainable low-cost transatlantic travel has long eluded the world’s airlines, and numerous competitors operate low-cost flights throughout Europe. Hungary-based Wizz Air, for instance, already flies to about 10 destinations from Keflavik.

Related: 7 reasons flying Iceland’s newest airline was a great experience

Still, Play will introduce the low-cost service between Europe and the U.S. at a time when international travel dynamics are emerging changed from the COVID-19 pandemic. Time will tell whether that presents an opportunity for a low-cost carrier like Play, or whether the model will continue to be unsustainable on flights across the Atlantic.

Featured photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy

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