Play Introduces “Stopover” Option

iceland budget airline play

The airline Play announced today that passengers on their connecting flights to and from Iceland can stop over in Iceland without an additional fee. This applies to passengers travelling between North America and Europe and they can now book a “stopover” for up to ten days using Play’s website interface, Viðskiptablaðið reports.

“Play is focused on offering competitive prices for its markets and with this service, travellers will be able to visit two countries without paying extra, using the airline’s online booking platform,” Play’s press release read.

Competing with Icelandair’s “stopover”

Icelandair, Iceland’s other international passenger airline, has offered the “stopover” option for a number of years. In their case, passengers travelling across the Atlantic can stay in Iceland for up to seven nights without an additional fee.

“This increases our offerings and will be a valuable tool in the competition for customers in our markets,” said Birgir Jónsson, CEO of Play, about the company’s new product. “It’s an unequivocal benefit for passengers to choose Play if they want to travel across the Atlantic and are intrigued by the attractiveness of Iceland. This new service on our website will simplify the process of booking a stay in our beautiful country and will increase our airline’s esteem abroad even more.”

In the United States, Play flies to Baltimore, Boston, New York and Washington DC, but also offers flights to Toronto in Canada. In Europe, the airline has over 30 destinations.

Air Traffic Controller Strike Aborted Due to Eruption

Reykjanes eruption Iceland eruption

Industrial action by air traffic controllers planned for tomorrow morning will not take place due to the volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula, Association President Arnar Hjálmsson confirmed with Mbl.is. The round of strikes began December 12 and, disrupting morning flights to and from Iceland for airlines Play and Icelandair. The work stoppages continued on December 14 and 18.

The volcanic eruption began shortly before midnight last night, 3 km north of the town of Grindavík.  The eruption has not affected air travel and Keflavík airport remains open, despite its proximity to the site of the eruption.

Flight schedules remain unaffected

According to a press release from Icelandair, the airline’s flight schedule remains unaffected. “The safety of our passengers and staff is always priority number one and all decisions are made with this in mind,” Vísir quotes the release. “We are following the situation closely and will alert passengers in a timely manner if any changes occur to our flight schedule because of the eruption.”

The airline Play has asked passengers to keep a close eye on messages from them regarding possible disruptions. “We do not expect any disruptions to our flight schedule but safety is always our top priority and the situation is being monitored closely by the relevant authorities,” is stated in a notice the airline’s website.

Repeated air traffic controller strikes

Tomorrow’s cancelled action was the last strike planned this year by the Icelandic Air Traffic Controller Association. The collective agreement of air traffic controllers expired on October 1 and negotiations have gone very slowly. This has been the third air traffic controller strike in Iceland in five years. Arnar asserts that the salaries of Iceland’s 152 air traffic controllers have lagged compared to other professions in the industry in recent years. The strike makes exceptions for emergency and coast guard flights.

German Airline Condor Cancels Egilsstaðir and Akureyri Connections

condor airline iceland

German airliner, Condor, has cancelled its intended connections to Akureyri and Egilsstaðir, which were announced last summer. Vísir reports.

When the connections were announced, it was originally scheduled for weekly service between Frankfurt and the regional airports.

Read more: German Airline, Condor, to Begin Service to Akureyri and Egilsstaðir

According to Isavia, more time should have been given to allow travel agencies to prepare bookings in advance. Plans to begin the service in 2024 are reportedly underway.

According to Sigrún Björk Jakobsdóttir, managing director of Isavia’s domestic airports, “there are many factors that led to this result. The marketing abroad did not start early enough to take off for this year, and shifting market conditions also played a part in this happening. The interest of airlines in international flights to the North and East is constantly growing, we have seen this at many industry conventions abroad.”

Never More International Flights Direct to Icelandic Countryside

Akureyri and Egilsstaðir are smaller, regional airports. Akureyri is currently serviced by a handful of international connections, while Egilsstaðir is still only serviced by domestic flights. Many in the tourism industry hope to better connect Iceland’s regional airports, to open up North and East Iceland for more tourism.

Sigrún Björk also stated: “It is extremely important to continue offering access to the country through new portals in line with the government’s policy to promote tourism in all parts of the country. It will continue to be our main goal and the interest is clearly there. The availability of international flights through Akureyri has never been greater, and travel agencies that offer trips there have been increasing the number of trips.”

Market research indicates that many tourists who visit Iceland once express interest in exploring other, less accessible, parts of the country. Germany is a main driver in the growth of the Icelandic tourism industry, and Sigrún Björk expressed her full confidence in Condor’s future commitment to Icelandic connections.

Never More International Flights Direct to Icelandic Countryside

Akureyri Iceland

Residents of Iceland who live outside the capital area normally need to travel to Keflavík to go abroad, adding an often lengthy and costly leg to their travel itinerary. However, this summer will see a record number of international flights directly from Akureyri, North Iceland and even one international route from Egilsstaðir, East Iceland to Germany, RÚV reports. These flights will not only make it easier for residents of North and East Iceland to travel abroad, but they will also help spread out tourists across Iceland, who normally have to travel through the capital area.

This summer, three airlines – Niceair, Condor, and Edelweiss – will offer direct flights between Akureyri and Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Tenerife, Alicante, Zurich, and Frankfurt. Direct flights between Frankfurt and Egilsstaðir, East Iceland, will be offered for the first time ever this summer.

Hjalti Páll Þórarinsson of Visit North Iceland says the flights provide new gateways to Iceland, and can help spread out tourists across various regions as well as more evenly throughout the year. Hjalti Páll says that although inflation must be impacting tourists in Iceland as it impacts locals, so far it does not seem to be leading to a drop in tourist numbers.

Play to Add Routes to Stockholm, Hamburg

iceland budget airline play

Budget Icelandic airline, Play, has begun selling tickets to connections in Stockholm, Sweden, and Hamburg, Germany.

Flights to Stockholm are scheduled to begin 31 March of 2023 and will connect to Arlanda airport. Four weekly connections are scheduled, for Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Read more: Play Airlines to Open New Connection to Porto

The first flight to Hamburg is scheduled for 16 May of next year, with three flights a week. Travellers will be able to schedule flights for Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Play has also recently added lines to Athens. CEO Birgir Jónsson is quoted as saying: “I am so excited for this new destination and believe many will agree with me. This will be a tremendous opportunity for Icelanders to get to Athens and this will add to the flights for people looking to get between Athens and the U.S. From Athens you can also get to many of the best Greek Islands. From Athens International Airport you can fly to Santorini, Mykonos, Crete and Rhodes. So this route will be a great option for travellers in the U.S., Greece and Iceland.”

Play Airlines to Open New Connection to Porto

iceland budget airline play

In a press release today, budget airliner Play announced that it will be opening a new connection to Porto, Portugal in April 2023.

The connection will now be the airliner’s second connection to Portgual, already operating a route between Keflavík and Lisbon twice a week.

The new route to Porto is scheduled to fly twice a week.

Play CEO Birgir Jónsson said in a statement: “We want to be the leading airline between Iceland and the Iberian Peninsula, and are working toward that goal by adding Porto as a destination in 2023. We will continue our Lisbon services next year, Lisbon being one of PLAY´s most popular destinations in 2022. In addition to the two cities in Portugal, we will continue operating our seven destinations in Spain, four of which will be year-round destinations. With our services, Icelanders have more options to get to sunny Spain for less, and we feel the people of Spain really love Iceland, and have clearly grabbed the opportunity to fly direct to our beautiful country with PLAY.”

A popular tourist destination, this will be the first direct flight to the city from Iceland.

 

July Sees Large Increase in Flights from Icelandair, Play

Keflavík airport Icelandair

In recent press releases, both of Iceland’s international airlines, Icelandair and PLAY, have reported significant increases in passenger counts in July 2022.

In the previous month, Icelandair’s total international and domestic passenger count was 529,000, representing a 141% increase from July 2021, which saw only 219,000. June 2022 saw some 431,000 passengers. The July totals for 2022 are 89% of the July 2019 numbers, signaling a recovery in the travel industry from COVD-19.

However, Icelandair has not been immune to the many travel disruptions caused by difficult conditions in international airports, with a 64% on-time performance rate. Icelandair is not unique in this, and many other airlines have reported similar problems as travel has begun resuming at pre-pandemic levels. Many international airports had to lay off staff during the pandemic, and are only now beginning to work again at full capacity. An influx of new, untrained staff and sudden ramp-up in operations has resulted in many reports of lost baggage and delayed flights.

A highlight for Icelandair is a load capacity of 89.6%, which they state reflects both a well-optimized route network, and also the pent-up travel demand from COVID-19.

PLAY also sees increase

The story is much the same for Iceland’s most recent budget airline, PLAY.

July 2022 saw PLAY servicing some 110,000 passengers, an increase of 25% from the previous month’s 88,000. Notably, the recent July figure is greater than PLAY’s entire 2021 year.

PLAY has enjoyed a passenger load of 87.9%, an increase of June’s figure of 79.2% and May’s 69.6%. As in the case of Icelandair, this likely reflects a pent-up travel demand following relaxation of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The budget airline has also enjoyed a comparatively higher on-time performance rate of 79%, which is seen as particularly impressive given the difficult situation seen in many international airports.

July 2022 also saw the introduction of PLAY’s latest aircraft, and Airbus A320neo, bringing their total fleet to six.

Ministry Suspends Residential Development by City Airport

The Ministry of Infrastructure considers the new residential development by Reykjavík City Airport to threaten the operational safety of the airport and has ordered construction at the site to be postponed, RÚV reports. A letter from the Minister of Infrastructure sent to the Mayor of Reykjavík last week states that the planned development would significantly reduce the operational safety of the airport. The City of Reykjavík’s land-use plan assumes that the airport will be relocated – but the government’s transport policy states that it must continue to operate until another airport is built.

The letter states that it is “totally unacceptable for such projects to be undertaken without fully examining whether – and in what way, it is ensured that they do not have a negative effect on the operational safety of Reykjavík Airport. The Ministry cannot agree to the commencement of construction unless it is demonstrated that aviation and operational safety are not endangered.” The Ministry has appointed a working group of experts to research the issue. They are expected to submit their findings on October 1.

Einar Þorsteinsson, Acting Mayor of Reykjavík while Dagur B. Eggertsson is on leave, says the city cannot afford to lose the 690 new apartments that are in the first phase of construction of the new neighbourhood. He points out that the neighbourhood’s design is based on two previous reports concerning airport safety in the context of the construction.

“I hope it will be possible to build a beautiful neighbourhood there, which serves those groups who are in dire need of housing and at the same time ensure the operational safety of the airport,” Einar stated.

Read More: Relocating Reykjavík Airport

There have been tentative plans to relocate Reykjavík City Airport for decades. The City of Reykjavík’s 2010-2030 land-use plan assumes that the airport will be relocated – but the government’s 2019-2033 Transport Policy states that Reykjavík City Airport in Vatnsmýri must continue to serve domestic flights in a satisfactory manner until another equally good or better option exists. City authorities have maintained that the first phase of construction in Skerjafjörður would not affect the airport’s operation.

PLAY Reports ISK 1.5 Billion Loss in Q1, Maintains ‘Strong Balance Sheet and Healthy Cash Position’

iceland budget airline play

Iceland’s newest discount airline, PLAY, reported a loss of ISK 1.5 billion [$11.5 million; €10.78 million] in the first quarter of 2022. Per the Interim Report (January – March 2022) issued by the company this week, this comes as no real surprise, and can largely be credited to global factors, namely, “[t]he Omicron variant impacted revenue during the quarter, and the war in Ukraine resulted in higher fuel price towards the end of the quarter.”

The negative EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) was “expected,” writes CEO Birgir Jónsson, who remains optimistic about the airline’s prospects. Travellers are showing an increasing willingness to fly, and the airline’s “financial position…continues to be strong, with a strong balance sheet and healthy cash position.” PLAY’s equity ratio stands at 22% ($56.5 million; €52.7 million; ISK 7.3 billion) and it is maintaining a cash position of ISK 5.4 billion [$43 million; €39.2]. Currency risk is a factor in the airline’s operations, “…since a large part of its cash position is in the ISK, while PLAY’s operating currency is in USD. PLAY is therefore exposed to the fluctuation of the two currencies against each other.”

Rapid network expansion

Between January and March 2022, PLAY carried 57,500 passengers, with a 20% jump in passenger numbers from February to March. The airline hired 45 pilots and over 100 new cabin crew members in Q1.

PLAY is steadily expanding its network and plans to continue to do so in Q2. Service to Baltimore/Washington, D.C. began in April; service to Prague, Boston, Lisbon, Gothenburg, and Brussels began in May, with destinations Stavanger, Malaga, and Trondheim on the horizon before the end of the month. In early June, service to Palma de Mallorca and Bologna will commence, as will daily flights to New York in the US. Indeed, PLAY will be the first airline to operate international flights from New York Stewart International Airport (located about 75 mi; 120 km outside of New York City) post-pandemic.

‘Strong booking momentum’

As part of its strategy to counter rising fuel prices that have resulted from the war in Ukraine, however, PLAY is adjusting its summer fleet plan and will not be offering three weekly flights to and from Orlando, Florida this fall as planned. Additional measures to counter rising fuel prices include a fuel hedging strategy, a fuel surcharge, and ongoing schedule adjustments “to eliminate unprofitable flying.”

Passenger hesitation in the wake of the Omicron variant and global unrest appears to be waning, and bookings are on the upswing. “In February, [there were] 59% more sold seats compared to January, despite the war in Ukraine. This improvement in booking inflow has continued into the second quarter of 2022, with more than fourfold increase in sold seats in April compared to January. Because of this strong booking momentum,” concludes the report, “PLAY expects to report improved utilization in the coming months.”

Air Services Agreement Signed With Ukraine

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Cooperation Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir and Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmyto Kuleba signed an Air Services Agreement between Iceland and Ukraine yesterday. This is the first international agreement Þórdís signs in her new role as Minister.

The agreement was signed in Stockholm where Þórdís Kolbrún is attending a Ministerial Council of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Dmytro Kuleba signed the agreement on behalf of Ukrainian authorities. This is the first air service agreement between Iceland and Ukraine, and it addresses commercial flights between the two countries.

“Air Services Agreements are among the most important international agreements ensuring transportation to and from Iceland, as well as facilitating access to international markets for Icelandic flight operators,” stated Þórdís Kolbrún. “The global pandemic has shown how fragile this environment can be for outside effects. Even though we’ve had to adapt to changed situations, we will of course continue to take the interests of flight operators into account when making agreements such as this one.”