Flying domestically in Iceland is like stepping back in time.
Security? Not necessary here. Just check in for your flight at the ticket counter, wait for the boarding call, and get on the plane. No X-ray machines, no body or iris scans, no checks for bottled liquids, etc. Just check your big bags and walk on board with your carryons. A very civilized process in an equally civilized country.
Our flight was from Reykjavik City Airport, RKV, which is right in the center of the capital city, flying to Akureyri in the north of the country, 250km (155 statute miles) by air. The much larger international airport is 50km (30 statute miles) to the southeast, in Keflavik. We were a group of six; five of us from various media outlets, and our very capable and patient Icelandair media wrangler.
Icelandair has two 76-seat DHC-8-400s and three 37-seat DHC-8-200s in its fleet; they acquired them in March of 2021 when the airline purchased Air Iceland Connect to create an integrated domestic/international route system.
There has been a surge in international low-cost carrier (LCC) offerings, and in the past few months Northern Pacific, Norse Atlantic, and PLAY have all announced plans to commence service to the United States.
PLAY will launch service between the the north New York City metro area and 22 European destinations via its Reykjavik hub in late June of this year, using a fleet of three new Airbus A321neo and one A320neo aircraft, with five more jets on order from Airbus. Tickets for the new destination went on sale Feb. 1.
PLAY was founded by two former WOW executives in 2019. You’ll remember WOW as the Icelandic LCC that launched in 2012 and ceased operations in 2019 after cash-flow issues and two failed buyout attempts. The WOW legacy has influenced PLAY’s livery and LCC character.
PLAY’s New York metro destination is New York Stewart International Airport located in Newburgh, NY, and is the airline’s third United States destination, following Boston and Baltimore.
PLAY CEO Birgir Jónsson explained that the airline launched in 2021 and “has been on a fast growth path. Despite the turbulence of the last year in the travel industry, PLAY is an airline born in a new era of travel and is bringing a modernized approach to the airline industry.”
With flight bookings trending upward and a forecast for increased travel demand, PLAY decided to enter the U.S. market, targeting budget-minded vacationers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Jónsson said that, “even amid a dynamic market and the ongoing factors from COVID-19, PLAY has created opportunity growth, serving 24 locations, as well as securing favorable lease rates for our aircraft that will enable us to keep costs low. PLAY is focused on data-driven decisions about growth to new destinations, and New York is an important market in this expansion to enable both American and European travelers to reach new, iconic destinations at affordable prices.”
PLAY is aiming its services squarely at budget-minded travelers, students, and families, relying on affordable fares, reliable flights, convenience, and flexibility to do so. They’re offering no-frills base fares and an a la carte list of add-ons that either feels like a world of options or being nickel-and-dimed, depending on your point of view regarding airline service models. PLAY hasn’t announced any intention to join airline alliances as yet.
The flying weather continues to be dismal in Seattle – I’ve lost track at how many training flights have been canceled due to low ceilings, low visibility, potential icing, etc. – I stopped counting after 14. Even by Seattle standards, we’ve had an exceptional stretch of bad weather this winter.
However, during a recent trip to Iceland with Icelandair (watch for upcoming stories about their maintenance operations, fleet and route plans, plus an economy-class flight review), a series of fortuitous introductions led to my being able to do something I’d only dreamt of – fly in Iceland.
That experience more than made up for all the weather-based frustration with my stalled Seattle flight training.
The Piper PA-28-151 Cherokee Warrior we flew that day
A huge crowd gathered to come see Icelandair’s newest addition to its fleet.
During a recent trip in April to Switzerland, I was able to make use of Icelandair’s Stopover option #MyStopover, and spent a weekend in Reykjavik to attend an employee-only plane warming party for the first Boeing 737 MAX 8 added to Icelandair’s fleet.
In February and March, Icelandair took delivery of their first three Boeing 737MAX 8 aircraft, TF-ICE, TF-ICY, and TF-ICU. The airline has 13 more MAX-series jets on order, with the next three scheduled for delivery in 2019, with the final delivery of this order slated for 2021.
The dark patches in the grey sky made for some nice contrast
The 737MAX features Icelandair’s updated livery, which has a simpler look. The blue is a lighter hue, the underbelly is grey, the words on the tail have been omitted so it only has the logo, and the yellow fuselage stripe has been removed. The aircraft were delivered without seats they and the in-flight entertainment system were installed in Keflavik by Icelandair Technical Services.
There was a several-day delay, before the first scheduled revenue flight, but, very quietly on April 13, TF-ICE made its first revenue flight to New York (EWR) and back, just in time for the party.
On the morning of Saturday April 14, TF-ICE made a quick repositioning flight from Keflavik (KEF) to Reykjavik City Airport (BIRK), where Icelandair’s upper management, along with some lucky employees, invited guests, and members of the press were about to board this brand new Boeing 737MAX for a sightseeing flight over Iceland.
Reykjavàk’s Old Harbor – just one of the many beautiful views of Iceland. Image: Nicholas Smith / AirlineReporter.com
Being based in Seattle, Icelandair’s nonstop flights bring Reykjavàk about as close as the flight to Miami. The question that everyone keeps asking me, though, is ’œwhy would you visit Iceland?’
Iceland’s terrain and activities match Seattle’s ’œweather be damned’ love affair with the outdoors to the tee. The trans-continental island’s atmosphere is unrelentingly Myst-esque; clean, fresh, bright, and utterly colorful. The temperate climate, driven by the warm Irminger Current, keeps the island nation splendid throughout the year. The looks are reason enough to visit, but adventure doesn’t come from looks alone.