New Icelandic budget airline Play eyes US expansion by spring 2022

Jul 15, 2021

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Play, the newest attempt at an Icelandic low-cost airline experience, isn’t wasting any time when it comes to expansion plans.

The airline has already added routes to London Stansted (STN), Berlin (BER) and Tenerife (TFS) from its hub at Reykjavík Airport (KEF), and now it’s setting its sights on U.S. flights by spring of 2022.

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“We will launch the U.S. operation, and the model is simply to connect the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada to select cities in Europe,” Play CEO Birgir Jónsson told Simple Flying. “And that’s something that we will see happening, I would say, [in] March, April, [and] May.”

The majority of the North American cities Play intends to fly to include popular destinations such as New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Toronto. The airline will also offer routes to other cities, which will be announced at a later time. Tickets for Play’s U.S. destinations could go on sale as early as November.

Related: 7 reasons why flying Play was a great experience

The company is looking to get a foothold in existing markets using its low-cost model, rather than trying to create new markets. Also, it wants to get as much use out of its aircraft as possible. It’s one reason why the company has no plans to expand to the West Coast and cities such as Los Angeles.

Play’s operational strategy is to offer long-haul flights at a low cost, and to do that, it wants to keep its planes on a 24-hour loop. Flying to LAX would prevent its aircraft from being able to return to Europe in that time frame.

“We want to be able to use our afternoon flights to go to the U.S. and have them back in the morning to fly European routes,” said Jónsson.

The carrier seems eager to avoid the missteps from its predecessor, Wow Air. That Icelandic budget airline had a similar business model that ultimately failed.

The nascent airline is off to a promising start. Its initial flights to London’s Stansted Airport (STN) were booked at 60% capacity, an impressive number given that we’re still in a pandemic that has upended travel.  The company even earned lots of attention for its snazzy, non-gender specific uniforms for its flight crews.

Now we’ll have to see if it can pull off its plans to expand across the Atlantic.

Featured photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy.

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