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.
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.
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.
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.
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?