New Icelandic airline PLAY flew its maiden voyage yesterday from Iceland’s Keflavík Airport to London’s Stansted Airport. Around 100 passengers were on the flight, some travelling for the first time since the pandemic began. The company opened a public share offering around the same time yesterday that ends today. PLAY’s CEO Birgir Jónsson says the company aims to make a profit by next year.
“This is a huge day,” Birgir told RÚV reporters yesterday. “I don’t think days get any bigger in the history of an airline and in the history of this company, so we are absolutely on cloud nine.” PLAY faces fierce competition the country’s established airline Icelandair and as well from around 30 other airlines that are currently flying to and from Iceland. “It’s a large group, but we are going to demarcate a unique position with our route system and flexibility,” stated Birgir. PLAY currently flies to a handful of key destinations in Europe but plans to expand its route network westward across the Atlantic by next year.
PLAY was founded in 2019 by former executives of WOW air, after the airline went bankrupt that year. The COVID-19 pandemic broke out shortly afterwards and the company delayed its launch and used the period to raise funds and hire staff. Meanwhile, the company that purchased WOW air’s assets recently applied for an air operating licence, spelling a possible resurrection of the defunct airline.
Criticised for Employee Contracts
The fledgling airline has not taken its first steps without some controversy. Birgir is currently under investigation by the Directorate of Tax Investigations regarding his capital income during the year 2018. One of the company’s board members, María Rúnarsdóttir, is also under investigation by the Directorate due to a possible tax violation as she did not file income tax in the years 2011 and 2012. The investigations were mentioned in documents regarding the airline’s public share offering.
PLAY has been criticised by the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ) for writing up contract agreements for its employees without consultation with the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association (FFÍ). FFÍ has sent the company a letter demanding they enter into negotiations with the union on a collective agreement for flight attendants.