PLAY: Iceland’s Questionable New Low Cost Carrier

Filed Under: WOW Air

Today details have been revealed about Iceland’s newest airline, PLAY!

Icelandic Aviation Post-WOW Air

WOW Air ceased operations this March, and since then we’ve seen two different groups try to create a new airline.

The first airline in the process of being created will have the same name — WOW Air — as investors purchased the assets of the old company. This airline will differentiate itself by offering a lounge for everyone, Michelin star food for purchase, and biometric boarding.

Wait, actually no it won’t… it’s now going to become a cargo airline for the time being. There’s something fishy about this entire operation, and I’ve written about it quite a bit, given how bizarre the concept is.

Then there’s a second group trying to create a new airline. This group is made up of some former WOW Air executives, though they didn’t purchase the WOW Air assets. Rather they plan to launch an airline with a similar business model to WOW Air, but with a different name.

Details Of PLAY, Iceland’s New Airline

Today the executives of the second airline held a press conference in Iceland, during which they discussed their plans for the new airline. Their new website,, is up as well.

So, what do we know about the airline so far?

  • PLAY will operate Airbus A321 aircraft, which they say are perfect for carrying passengers and cargo
  • The airline will initially have two planes, but plans to grow their fleet to six planes by summer 2020, and will increase that to 10 aircraft within three years
  • They are in the final stages of obtaining an air operator certificate for the airline
  • The airline will begin with flights to Europe, but next spring plans to launch flights to North America
  • PLAY’s website is up and running, and ticket sales are expected to begin in November, with the airline planning on giving away 1,000 tickets to celebrate
  • Arnar Már Magnusson is CEO of the new company, and he was VP of Operations at WOW Air
  • The company has allegedly received about a $40 million investment

My Take On Iceland’s PLAY

There are surprisingly few details about the airline so far. We have a sense of when they’ll launch operations and their general route network, but I don’t really get what will make this different than failed WOW Air?

It sounds to me like they’re basically trying to replicate WOW Air’s business model, with the only difference being that they don’t plan to grow too much too fast.

Many say that WOW Air’s fatal mistake was the pace at which they tried to grow, and their ultimate decision to acquire A330s, which just don’t fit into the business model.

Based on everything we know, it sure sounds like PLAY will basically replicate WOW’s business model in the early stages.

It’s also interesting to see both WOW Air and PLAY launching around the same time. I still question if either or both of these companies will actually launch, but both parties do seem serious… at least in their own minds.

What do you make of PLAY?

  1. What I can’t understand is that are still suckers out there to invest millions on an over and over again proven unsustainable model.

    I guess it explains trump voters…

  2. Matt Levine has semi jokingly said that when venture capitalists subsidize our purchases (food delivery, taxi rides, air travel to Iceland) we’re seeing the American version of socialism.

    This is great news and there are two angles — (1) book unsustainably cheap travel and enjoy it, (2) book unsustainably cheap travel really far into the future and hope you beat their burn rate, then use travel insurance or rescue fares to earn sweet miles for a fun trip on a legacy carrier.

  3. This honestly looks like a parody of WOW – also a random word, fully neon-painted/solid color livery, etc. I do like Michael’s idea of buying tickets to then get whatever compensation issued when they eventually fail…

  4. Wondering when the obsession with Iceland will eventually end. The country can barely sustain 1 carrier.

  5. Looks like they’re making a play for the Reykjavík market. Unfortunately the airline business is all work and no play.

  6. So starting an airline during the beginning of the winter season? I get that ramp up take time, but surely waiting until a bit closer to summer would be wise.

  7. “Many say that WOW Air’s fatal mistake was the pace at which they tried to grow, and their ultimate decision to acquire A330s, which just don’t fit into the business model.

    Based on everything we know, it sure sounds like PLAY will basically replicate WOW’s business model in the early stages.”

    So basically, they are insane…

  8. In response to a couple of a comments. The start of winter is a very popular time to visit Iceland, because of the one thing you can get there during this time. The lights!

    Iceland remains to be popular because it is an amazing place, lights or not. It captures people. Icelandair is an amazing airline but the prices fluctuate a lot and it’s difficult to get something that is cheap. When you then account for accommodation and food, the thought of a cheap flight does make the whole thing easier. Personally, I would never fly with anyone else. Icelandair does it all better.

  9. I want in on this with another short interesting word! Maybe it’ll be flights to Europe via Greenland!

    I could call it Funk Air! Or Chill Air! I am so down! Let’s make Greenland the next Iceland!

    Seriously, I think it’ll make a killing!

  10. Just a thought to add… part of Wow’s failure was not just speed of expansion, but how they expanded. Connecting traffic requires banking all the flights, but this led to horrible aircraft utilization with a number of the cities they tried to expand to.

    This “Play” could work, just as long as they don’t make the idiotic decisions that doomed their last model. I’m sure it all comes down to having a Michelin-starred chef doing the meals 😉

  11. What’s the over / under on bankruptcy for both of these carriers? 5 years? Budget carrier model isn’t sustainable on transatlantic routes.

  12. Strictly speaking, they can’t offer Michelin star food for purchase, as the star is awarded to the restaurant, not the chef. Iceland’s only starred restaurant lost its star in the last round of awards too, so it’s not like they were getting into the food prep business,,,

  13. Where are they getting the planes? As far as I was aware there’s a huge backlog of 321 orders. Maybe they are leasing? Part of Primera’s failure was selling tickets and launching service on its new 321neos which it only ever received one or two and had to wet lease ancient 757s which kept going out of service, result lots of cancels, delayed flights and compensation.

  14. And what makes you such a fucking expert? This blog and its author are a joke. By flying many miles he’s an airline expert? Well I drink lots of beer in the bar, so that must make me a master brewer?

    Blogs and posts like this are damaging to airlines, peoples livelihoods are affected by what people read and believe with sites like this. There is very little factual content in this article, yet opinion is given as fact. Can see why you are not a real journalist

  15. Play? Seems more like they pressed Repeat. Maybe someone can hit the Pause button, or Stop, before it all gets even more out of hand…

    @Stephen barrow: he never said that he’s an expert in fucking. He knows a lot about the aviation industry though and makes his money in it.

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