The CEO of Europe’s newest airline, PLAY, says he is in no rush to fly on his own airline. PLAY has just begun flying to London, Tenerife, and Berlin, with more destinations soon to follow. CEO Birgir Jónsson says it has been an exciting time, but he still hasn’t climbed onboard himself.
First flights run like clockwork but no flights yet for PLAY CEO
In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, Jónsson says the first flights ran “like clockwork.” He says the airline has US$90 million in the bank, no debt, and will focus on reliability and a good passenger experience.
“Our ramp-up is based on that,” he says. “We are starting slow. We are basically making sure all the cogs in the machine are well oiled and run like clockwork.”
PLAY’s CEO says given the current environment, the standard hoopla surrounding most inaugural flights was scaled back last week. Instead of the usual media junketeers and other assorted freeloaders, the first flights took regular fare-paying passengers and achieved 60% loads.
“I’m very proud of that,” Jónsson says. The CEO further added he expected 50% loads across July and a gradual build through to summer. And he is upbeat about PLAY’s initial success.
“The reception has been absolutely fantastic,” Jónsson says. It’s been a busy time for the CEO, ‘crazy busy,’ he says. So busy, he hasn’t had time to fly his own airline.
“I’ve been onboard but only on the ground,” he says. “To be honest, I am the least important passenger. My focus is always on a happy paying passenger. No one cares what I think.”
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Birgir Jónsson to focus on reliability and a good customer experience
It makes a change from the normal airline CEO mold where the masters of the airline world usually like nothing better than participating in big media events from the comfort of a luxe seat up the front of the plane.
But in PLAY’s case, there are no luxe seats. Birgir Jónsson’s focus is on a low-cost value proposition. As he notes, he is about reliability and a good customer experience. PLAY only recently received its first plane, a shiny new Airbus A321neo.
The aircraft is configured to accommodate 192 passengers in an all-economy configuration. If that sounds like your typical squeezy low-cost airline experience, PLAY is lifting the bar a little. The seat pitch on the plane is 34″, which is generous compared to other operators of the same aircraft type.
More planes on the way at PLAY as the network expands
Jónsson expects the second plane to arrive in Reykjavik this weekend and the third to arrive later in July. That ties in with PLAY’s gradual ramp-up plan. The CEO says Paris, Copenhagen, and Alicante will all shortly be added to the network with the second plane in operation.
Jónsson says these are historically solid destinations for any Icelandic airline to serve. They are key hubs for outbound Icelanders connecting onto other destinations and important inbound markets for travel to Iceland.
“We wanted to lay out a groundwork on our network,” the PLAY CEO says. Next year, PLAY is eyeing flights to North America, and as a result, the airline will be able to fly passengers from Paris to New York via Reykjavik. Hopefully, by then, Birgir Jónsson will have found time to take a flight on his own airline.