Iceland’s PLAY Poised To Launch US Ops In Spring 2022

Icelandic startup PLAY has been increasing its route network over the past few weeks. Having kicked things off with its inaugural service from Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport to London Stansted on June 24th, it has since added Berlin and Tenerife to its portfolio. Further European expansions are planned, and, next spring, PLAY even plans to fly to the US.

PLAY Airbus A321neo
PLAY will establish itself in Europe before entering the transatlantic market. Photo: Tobias Green via Flickr

Spreading its wings

Icelandic low-cost startup PLAY has enjoyed a successful and busy first few weeks of operations. It is a testament to the airline that, despite being amid a pandemic and not inviting any guests, its inaugural service to London Stansted was 60% full. More recently, PLAY also reached the financial milestone of being listed on the Nasdaq stock market.

This start to life for the carrier should give it a strong basis from which to grow, both in terms of its fleet and its destinations. It has big plans for the latter of these, with CEO Birgir Jónsson stating in an exclusive webinar interview with Simple Flying that, next spring:

We will launch the US operation, and the model is simply to connect the East Coast of the US and Canada to select cities in Europe. And that’s something that we will see happening, I would say, [in] March, April, [and] May.”

PLAY A321neo
PLAY plans for its US services to take off in spring 2022. Photo: PLAY

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Destinations still unknown

At this stage, PLAY is yet to officially announce which transatlantic destinations it will serve. However, Mr Jónsson’s mention of the East Coast allows prospective passengers to take a reasonable guess at the markets in question. He told Simple Flying that, while the usual suspects will all be there, some wild cards might also emerge. Jónsson explains that:

You don’t have to be a genius to see that these are the major cities. I mean, it’s going to be New York, Boston, Washington and Toronto, these kinds of cities at least. Then we will see [if] we have some surprises.”

In any case, PLAY intends to target existing markets, penetrating them with its lower costs, rather than looking to carve out brand-new markets. Of course, tickets can’t go on sale until the destinations are known. PLAY plans to “launch the sales in November [or] December.”

Play, Berlin Brandenburg Airport, First Flight
Although PLAY’s North American destinations aren’t officially known, the airline is transparent in its aims to enter existing markets on the East Coast. Photo: Berlin Brandenburg Airport

West Coast operations not on the cards

One North American destination that PLAY has ruled out is Los Angeles. While an attractive destination for many European travelers, flying to LAX wouldn’t fit PLAY’s operational model in terms of aircraft utilization. Jónsson told Simple Flying that:

“We have no plans to route to LA, or any kind of flights that go outside a 24-hour loop. We want to be able to use our afternoon flights to go to the US and have them back in the morning to fly European routes.”

High aircraft utilization is a key aspect for low-cost carriers like PLAY, and its operational cycle of ’24-hour loops’ will help it get the most out of its A321neos. These bright red aircraft are set to become more common in Europe’s skies, with six expected by 2022.

What do you make of PLAY’s transatlantic plans? Have you flown on the Icelandic startup airline yet? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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