Almost Time To PLAY: The US Will Take Off In Spring

Iceland’s PLAY has today revealed that two new A320neos have been acquired on lease from China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings Limited. The aircraft will arrive directly from Airbus in March, “in time for the change to a hub-and-spoke business model,” as the carrier put it. As we see in this article, it is almost already set up for it.

As PLAY reaffirms that the US will be served from spring, expect route announcements soon. Photo: PLAY.

PLAY now has 19 bookable routes

Some 19 routes comprise PLAY’s route network at the time of writing, as summarized in the following table. Nine routes are bookable this winter, along with 17 next summer. Note that temporary Bucharest and Warsaw are excluded.

The 19 destinations include a range of summer sun and city hotspots for Iceland’s outbound demand, thinner places across the Nordics, and origins designed for inbound demand. Bologna, Lisbon, Prague, and Stuttgart are the most recent additions.

The interesting one is Amsterdam, an important route for defunct WOW that even saw its A330s. While it’s bookable from December 3rd until March 26th, the end of the aviation winter season, we suspect it’ll open for the summer to help with PLAY’s transatlantic ambition.

If November to the end of next summer is examined, London Stansted has more PLAY flights than any other destination, OAG confirms. Following in order is Paris CDG, Berlin, Copenhagen, Tenerife South, Alicante, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, and Lisbon.

Keflavik to…Bookable this winter?Bookable next summer?
AlicanteYes (from December 21st)Yes
AmsterdamYes (from December 3rd)No
BarcelonaNoYes (from April 15th)
BolognaNoYes (from June 7th)
GothenburgNoYes (from May 20th)
Gran CanariaYes (from December 22nd)Yes (until April 13th)
LisbonNoYes (from May 13th)
London StanstedYesYes
MalagaNoYes (from May 29th)
PalmaNoYes (from June 1st)
Paris CDGYesYes
PragueNoYes (from May 5th)
SalzburgYes (from January 22nd)No
StavangerNoYes (from May 26th)
StuttgartNoYes (from June 3rd)
Tenerife SouthYesYes
TrondheimNoYes (from 31st May)

The US will be served from spring

In August, PLAY applied for permission to serve the US. And today, its CEO, Birgir Jonsson, reaffirmed its intention to start flying to the country this coming spring. This author reckons that US flights will take off sometime in April, subject to the ongoing situation with coronavirus and entry restrictions.

PLAY’s incoming pair of A320neos will play an important role in its network development and will supplement its existing three A321neos (TF-AEW/PLA/PLB). Expect the US to overwhelmingly see higher-capacity A321s, with lower seat-mile costs, just as it did with WOW.

The A320s will likely be mainly used on thinner European destinations and also non-hub-timed routes – such as Barcelona, Gran Canaria, Lisbon, Malaga, Prague, Tenerife – that exit for point-to-point (P2P) demand to/from Iceland.

PLAY, Iceland, Airbus A320neo
How PLAY’s schedules are coordinated indicates where they’ll serve in the US, even before corroboration from the CEO’s previous statements. Photo: PLAY.

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To the US!

The following figure shows how PLAY’s network is organized at Keflavik next summer. A large chunk of departures are between 05:45 and 06:45, and these arrive back between 13:15 and 14:15. Not coincidentally, it is virtually identical to WOW’s original departure/arrival banks; see departure bank one and arrivals bank three.

PLAY's schedule organization in summer 2022
In summer 2022, this is how PLAY has organized its arrivals and departures at Keflavik. Image: OAG.

Indicates what cities will be served

Destinations falling into PLAY’s 05:45-06:45 and 13:15-14:15 schedule include Amsterdam (assuming it returns), Copenhagen, Berlin, Gothenburg, London Stansted, Paris CDG, Stavanger, and Trondheim.

These places will be crucial for its upcoming US services, which will be timed to leave Keflavik around 15:00-15:30 and arrive home ~04:00-05:00 the following day, ensuring a 24-hour cycle and four sectors per aircraft per day. One aircraft will be able to operate one return trip to somewhere in Europe and then another to North America.

PLAY has said that obvious markets like New York (area), Boston, and Washington (area) will be served, along with Toronto in Canada. Being closer to Iceland, these all fit into the 24-hour cycle while benefiting from good P2P demand – vital to help with yields.

Where would you like PLAY to serve in North America? Let us know in the comments.