Iceland’s PLAY Launching Flights To United States

Iceland’s PLAY Launching Flights To United States

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Back in December, Iceland’s new low cost carrier announced its first two routes to the United States, to Baltimore and Boston. Then at the beginning of February PLAY announced its third route, to the New York area. Now the airline has announced its fourth destination in the United States — Orlando.

PLAY Iceland routes to the United States

PLAY will be launching flights between Iceland and the United States as of the spring of 2022, including to Baltimore, Boston, and New York, with Orlando service coming in the fall. PLAY will use Airbus A321neo aircraft in an all-economy configuration.

While passengers can use these flights to travel between the United States and Iceland, a lot of PLAY’s business model is based around connecting travelers to other points in Europe, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Lisbon, London, and Paris. Schedules are optimized to minimize travel time.

PLAY primarily operates Airbus A321neos

Let’s go over the details of the four routes to the United States.

PLAY’s flight from Iceland to Baltimore (BWI)

As of April 20, 2022, PLAY will operate daily flights between Keflavik (KEF) and Baltimore (BWI) with the following schedule:

OG101 Keflavik to Baltimore departing 3:05PM arriving 5:50PM
OG102 Baltimore to Keflavik departing 7:00PM arriving 5:00AM (+1 day)

The 2,762-mile flight is blocked at 6hr45min westbound and 6hr eastbound.

PLAY’s flight from Iceland to Boston (BOS)

As of May 11, 2022, PLAY will operate daily flights between Keflavik (KEF) and Boston (BOS) with the following schedule:

OG111 Keflavik to Boston departing 3:30PM arriving 5:35PM
OG112 Boston to Keflavik departing 7:00PM arriving 4:30AM (+1 day)

The 2,413-mile flight is blocked at 6hr5min westbound and 5hr30min eastbound.

PLAY’s flight from Iceland to New York Stewart (SWF)

As of June 9, 2022, PLAY will operate daily flights between Keflavik (KEF) and Stewart (SWF), with the following schedule:

OG121 Keflavik to Stewart departing 3:15PM arriving 5:35PM
OG122 Stewart to Keflavik departing 6:45PM arriving 4:40AM (+1 day)

The 2,553-mile flight is blocked at 6hr20min westbound and 5hr55min eastbound.

PLAY’s flight from Iceland to Orlando (MCO)

As of September 30, 2022, PLAY will operate 3x weekly flights between Keflavik (KEF) and Orlando (MCO), with the following schedule:

OG131 Keflavik to Orlando departing 3:00PM arriving 7:20PM
OG132 Orlando to Keflavik departing 5:15PM arriving 4:35AM (+1 day)

The 3,534-mile flight is blocked at 8hr20min westbound and 7hr20min eastbound. The flight will operate to Orlando on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from Orlando on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This will initially be a seasonal flight operating through April, which suggests it’s targeted at Europeans (since not many Floridians are looking to head to Europe in winter).

As you can see, the plane will sit on the ground in Orlando for nearly 22 hours with each rotation. That’s because PLAY’s business model is about connecting people efficiently between the United States and Europe. Since the Orlando service is longer than the other flights (by around 1,000 miles), the only way the airline can do that with Orlando flights is to have the plane overnight there.

PLAY A321neo interior

What are PLAY’s fares like?

I’ve gotta be honest, PLAY’s fares are kind of high, or maybe fares on other airlines are just too low. Regardless, I don’t see where the value proposition is here. Let’s take a look at a “regular” route that has some competition. I decided to search Boston to Lisbon fares, since Lisbon tends to have pretty competitive fares, thanks to TAP Air Portugal.

In May and June, both oneworld and Star Alliance airlines have fares of just over $400 roundtrip, all-in.

As a point of comparison, PLAY’s lowest fares are over $500 roundtrip.

Then you have to factor in that PLAY charges fees for just about everything, with prices being per segment (and if you’re traveling beyond Iceland, you’re looking at four segments on a roundtrip). For example, at a minimum you’ll pay:

  • $26-37 per segment for a carry-on bag
  • $32-46 per segment for a checked bag
  • $4-40 per segment for a seat assignment
  • Food & drinks aren’t included either

Fees are potentially even higher than that, given PLAY’s complicated fee structure. For high season flights to & from the United States, you’ll pay $50 for a carry-on bag and $76 for a checked bag. Sheesh.

This gets at the general issues ultra low cost carriers have in long haul markets — legacy carriers are often competitive on price in economy (since they also get revenue from business travelers and cargo).

To me, booking PLAY would only be attractive if you wanted a stopover in Iceland, or if fares were somewhere around $100 one-way, given how much you’ll have to pay for extras.

PLAY aircraft in snow

I’m curious to see how PLAY’s growth goes

There’s no denying that ultra low cost carriers are great for consumers on transatlantic flights. Not only do they directly offer low fares, but they generally cause legacy carriers to have to lower fares as well (at least big picture).

The catch is that long haul ultra low cost carriers don’t exactly have a great track record with being profitable. In the case of Iceland, just look at WOW Air, which ceased operations in 2019. PLAY is essentially replicating what WOW Air did, except the airline is growing at a more sustainable pace, and I’d assume it also has a better cost structure (given that the pandemic was a great time to acquire planes).

PLAY launched service in the summer of 2021, though interestingly only operated between Iceland and other points in Europe, which isn’t really the core business model of an airline like this. With the airline now extending service to the United States, PLAY can start using Iceland as a stopover hub.

It’ll be worth watching which destinations PLAY adds next, how frequencies are adjusted, etc.

PLAY looks mighty similar to WOW Air

Bottom line

Icelandic ultra low cost carrier PLAY will finally be launching flights to the United States as of the spring of 2022. The airline will initially fly daily to Baltimore, Boston, and Stewart, and then as of the fall will add service to Orlando. These flights will give travelers access not only to Iceland, but also to several other points in Europe.

PLAY’s pricing just seems way off to me, at least in this environment. It seems that PLAY is priced in line with legacy carriers, all while charging fees for just about everything.

What do you make of PLAY’s expansion to the United States? Do you think the airline will succeed?

Conversations (18)
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  1. Allyson Guest

    I think they will succeed. There should be a law about major carriers lowering prices to unprofitable levels in order to drive out new airlines. Then they raise the prices.

    Support the new airline and especially those living within 70 miles of Stewart newburgh .. your options are good with play air.

  2. Matt Guest

    How long until the article that says "Play cuts North American routes" ? 6 months ? 1 year ?

  3. John Guest

    Nobody is going to mention the obvious? The appalling paint job and logo/branding.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Why don't you mention it?

    2. John Guest

      Hook, line & sinker! Thanks for playing, Eskimo. I knew it would be you or Endre! LOL

  4. Ryan Guest

    The MCO to KEF flights arent even cheap, kinda disappointing but they may lower their fares if icelandair does.

  5. Alan Guest

    Pricing is a disaster. Legacies have no problem matching LCCs 1-for-1 in economy class to maintain share. Obviously AA is matching someone else, probably TAP, in that LIS example, and it's not what DFW would consider the ideal fare to be; nonetheless, how can Play not be-at the very least- competitive with TP/AA? It's amateur hour in Iceland.

  6. snic Guest

    SWF is in the middle of nowhere, but the attraction, I think, is that it's a 1 hr or so drive from many parts of the NY metro area (Westchester, Connecticut, etc). Many people would rather fly out of a small rural/suburban airport that is easy to get to on a fast-moving highway than have to schlep through NYC traffic to get to LGA or JFK, even if the drive is the same length. I...

    SWF is in the middle of nowhere, but the attraction, I think, is that it's a 1 hr or so drive from many parts of the NY metro area (Westchester, Connecticut, etc). Many people would rather fly out of a small rural/suburban airport that is easy to get to on a fast-moving highway than have to schlep through NYC traffic to get to LGA or JFK, even if the drive is the same length. I would seriously consider it. Too bad WOW has mispriced their fares, hopefully that will change.

  7. Reyyan Member

    They actually have quite attractive fares from European cities to Iceland. Where others charge 2x as much or don't offer service at all.

  8. Bandmeeting Guest

    Former NYC type here. I never understood what Stewart was supposed to be for regarding passenger flights.

  9. Gary Hohenstein Guest

    I would love to be able to go to Stewart. I have to check this out.

  10. Daniel from Finland Guest

    What the... You pay 100 USD more than Iberia, plus all the bag fees that apparently for a carry-on only are 200 USD roundtrip, and end up 80 km north of NYC at some random airfield? THe guys at Play must be real optimists if they belive this will work.

    Currently, Finnair is selling HEL-JFK roundtirp for 450 USD. Nonstop. For a Plat, that's including a carry-on, a checked bag, lounge access and a (poor) inflight meal + wine and even a cocktail.

  11. Jim Guest

    I love the insistence of airlines trying to make New York Stewart work - it's never going to work

    1. Wil Guest

      I have flown international from Stewart several times and the pricing draws from the tri-state area. That said IF any of them are going to be successful they need to find a way to get reasonable train service and keep fares low

    2. 305 Guest

      Trenton would work better if the train connection was restored to NYC. Pulls from PHL market as well as EWR

  12. derek Guest

    They should try to capture at least a little business traffic, such as IBM in Armonk, NY, Poughkeepsie, and even Albany, NY. At least try.

  13. guisun Gold

    I don't see what's the point of a low cost carrier that has the base fare value higher than legacy fares all in.

  14. Corey Sacken Guest

    Seems like guaranteed failure. I just wait for icelandair fare sales. 3 business class round trip (more like domestic business class which is fine) for $2700.

    That and a nice chunk of Alaska miles. Works for me

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Allyson Guest

I think they will succeed. There should be a law about major carriers lowering prices to unprofitable levels in order to drive out new airlines. Then they raise the prices. Support the new airline and especially those living within 70 miles of Stewart newburgh .. your options are good with play air.

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John Guest

Hook, line & sinker! Thanks for playing, Eskimo. I knew it would be you or Endre! LOL

0
Eskimo Guest

Why don't you mention it?

0
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