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.

 

Play Flight Forced to Make Emergency Landing Due to Unruly Passenger

iceland budget airline play

A flight operated by the Icelandic airline PLAY was forced to land in Canada on the way to Baltimore, Maryland in the US to remove an unruly passenger, RÚV and mbl.is report. This is the first time since beginning operations in 2019 that PLAY has had to make an emergency landing due to a passenger disturbance.

Icelandic flight crews are, luckily well-versed in dealing with flugdólgar, or ‘air hooligans,’ and no one was injured in the incident.

“This isn’t the first time that something has come up onboard [a PLAY flight],” confirmed Nadine Guðrún Yaghi, the PR officer for the airline. “But it is the first time that we’ve had to land somewhere because of it.” She continued by saying that the passenger had started by being belligerent and noisy. The flight crew followed all the correct procedures—passengers sitting near the man were relocated, for instance—but the situation escalated to a point where the only viable option was an emergency landing. The incident went as well as it could have, Nadine said, given the circumstances.

According to an announcement issued by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the flight landed in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada shortly after 5:00 PM. The air hooligan in question, a 33-year-old American man, was removed from the flight and arrested. He will be charged with assaulting a crew member, as well as “Mischief over $5,000,” i.e., “interference of the flight causing the emergency landing.” He is also being charged under Canada’s Aeronautics Act “for engaging in behaviours that endangered the safety or security of an aircraft and its passengers while in flight.” PLAY is also expected to bring charges against him.

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.

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.”

Play Launches Flights to the US Next Spring

PLAY airline airplane Keflavík flight

The Icelandic airline Play will begin offering flights to the US next spring. The airline will add three new aircraft to its fleet next year.

Flights to the east coast starting in April

As reported by Business Insider, the Icelandic airline PLAY has received initial approval from the US Department of Transportation to operate flights to the US.

Tickets to the US went on sale yesterday. Play will begin flying to Washington/Baltimore on April 20 and Boston starting May 11. It will thereby become the third carrier to offer flights to the US; Icelandair offers flights to over a dozen destinations in the States, and the US airlines Delta and United are currently offering flights to the States in the summer.

Low prices, high demand

Speaking to RÚV yesterday, Play’s CEO Birgir Jónsson suggested that the airline would continue to focus on low prices – “a comfortable, clean, and secure way of transport,” as he remarked in his interview with Business Insider, as opposed to “an experience.”

“It’s always been our aim to operate according to this model,” Birgir said to RÚV. “We’ve seen that what matters most in this business are ticket prices and, therefore, operational costs. We believe that we can secure our place in the market by offering the lowest prices.”

Birgir added that he was not afraid of Icelandair responding to Play’s foray into the US market by lowering its prices – that lower prices would benefit all consumers. According to the flight schedule, Play will offer daily flights to the abovementioned destinations in spring, leaving Iceland in the afternoon and returning on the following mornings.

Great expectations

As has been widely reported, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the airline industry. Birgir remains hopeful, however, that the state of affairs vis-a-vis the pandemic will have improved by next summer.

“I think most of us expect the tourism industry to return to normal next summer, but like before, we must proceed cautiously; we’ll begin by offering flights to two new destinations and go from there.”

With the addition of the three new aircraft next year, Play’s fleet will number six aeroplanes, and four new aircraft are expected to be added in 2023. When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on the airline’s operations, Birgir stated that it’s had its effect but that bookings have been steady:

“All in all, we’re happy with the reception and how things have progressed.”

Budget Airline Play Ready to Start Flying This Fall

Play Air from Iceland

Play, a budget airline formed in the wake of WOW air’s bankruptcy last year, is ready to launch its flight schedule no later than this fall, Vísir reports. “It’s been going really well,” remarked CEO Arnar Már Magnússon. “We’ve used the last few weeks and months for final preparations.”

Many of those involved with Play previously worked at WOW air, and Arnar says that the new airline – which has eschewed WOW’s trademark fuchsia for bright red aircraft – is applying lessons learned at their former company. “We’re building on their experience,” Arnar noted. “We’ve got a lot of people who have a great deal of expertise in airline operations.” Play has also already completed contract negotiations with the unions for both pilots and flight crews.

In the beginning, Play will operate one aircraft, but Arnar says the fleet can be increased as needed. The airline’s flight routes are set but the market still needs to be further examined in order to determine what the inaugural route will be. As of today, the airline has 36 employees and Arnar says the company has been slowly building up staff since last fall. “Thankfully, things have been delayed a little so we’ll be better equipped when air travel begins again in earnest.” Play is still waiting on its operating license, but Arnar says that the company is expecting it soon.

“All the work behind the scenes is done, but there’s so much connected to COVID that there has been something of a delay,” Arnar continued. “But in a good place. We’re working very closely with the Icelandic Transport Authority on these matters. As things stand now, it’s really difficult for us to determine [when we should start flying], just as it is for most [airlines], but we have a number of scenarios regarding when the first flight will be and, in fundamentals, we’re ready for it.”

Play Air to Fly to Six European Cities

When the operations of the budget airline Play get off the ground, its two Airbus planes will fly to six destinations in Europe: Alicante, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Paris, and Tenerife.

With reference to “confidential” documents from a presentation held by Íslensk verðbréf for investors last week, Kjarninn reported that the airline had already negotiated slots and service hours with airports in the cities and that it had also secured a deal on fuel with BP, with a fixed price for six months.

Play will be adding four more planes to its fleet in May of next year; two more planes, a year later; and in May of 2022, Play plans on operating a total of ten planes. More destinations will gradually be added (including four American cities next year).

Flights with Play will be sold as soon as the airline secures an operating license, which is expected to happen as soon as funding is completed. Play hopes to raise ISK 1.7 billion from private investors in Iceland. The airline has secured debt financing with the British investment fund Athene Capital to an amount of ISK 5.5 billion.

In an interview with Morgunblaðið yesterday, Play’s public relations officer María Margrét Jóhannsdóttir was not willing to confirm Kjarninn’s reports. María Margrét stated that the airline’s flight network would be introduced “very soon,” or as soon as it had been finalised: “We have not finalised anything; otherwise, we would have already made an announcement.”

As Iceland Review reported last Tuesday, Play – a new Icelandic airline – was founded from the bankruptcy of WOW air and will swap out WOW’s quintessential fuschia colour for red. According to Play’s CEO Arnar Már Magnússon, the colour red was chosen to represent passion as well as Icelandic nature. WOW Air was Iceland’s only budget airline.