I Flew Low-Cost Icelandic Airline PLAY's Inaugural Transcontinental Flight

We tested out the first of the airline's planned intercontinental routes

PLAY Airlines

Courtesy of PLAY

Recently, low-cost Icelandic airline PLAY announced that it would be expanding service from its already existing European domestic offerings to include intercontinental routes to Europe from the US. Founded by executives of the now-defunct WOW air, the newly minted PLAY is looking to give WOW's low-cost model, which flew between North America and Europe via Iceland, another shot.

The inaugural US to Europe service launched last Wednesday, April 20, 2022, from Baltimore's BWI Airport, taking off en route to Iceland's Keflavik Airport. Travelers who booked a ticket to check out the airline's new service were treated to a ribbon-cutting ceremony and press conference, followed by sweet treats like cupcakes and even an ambitious chocolate replica of Iceland's famous Eyjafjallajokull volcano.

With a recent boom in budget airlines popping up or expanding to serve smaller markets, how does PLAY stack up? Here's how PLAY fares against the competition.

PLAY Airlines Ribbon Cutting

Astrid Taran

Ground Experience

To check-in for my flight on the PLAY website, I had to create a MyPLAY account, and once I did, I found the mobile check-in process incredibly easy. As PLAY's chief executive officer, Birgir Jónsson, previously told TripSavvy, the company is prioritizing being "digital-first," and my ability to quickly check in for my flight on my phone proves that they're on the right path. I arrived at BWI Airport a few hours before my boarding time and was greeted by a gate party shortly before takeoff.

PLAY Cabin

Courtesy of PLAY

Cabin and Seat

PLAY's flights are operated on a narrowbody Airbus A321neo aircraft, a popular choice for transatlantic journeys at a lower price point. PLAY's A321neo came configured with 194 economy seats, the majority of which have 29 to 30 inches of pitch. I was seated in one of the extra legroom seats, which come equipped with a comfy 32 to 35 inches of pitch and can be purchased for a higher fare. My 34 inches of legroom felt generous; I never felt cramped and was surprised to find such a spacious set-up on a low-cost carrier. I was also able to recline my seat comfortably.

Northern Lights

Astrid Taran

Entertainment and In-Flight Amenities

The Airbus A321neo is about as no-frills as aircrafts these days come. As expected, there were no seatback screens on the flight, and entertainment options like Wi-Fi, television, or movies were nowhere to be found. I came armed with hours of podcasts to catch up on and spent most of the flight listening to those. The universe, however, had different plans for me: halfway through the flight, a flight attendant announced that the Northern Lights were visible from the left aisle of the aircraft. I yanked my AirPods out of my ears and zipped across the plane, where I snapped photos on my phone through the airplane window, experiencing one of the most extraordinary in-air moments of all my travels. It was indeed a moment of Icelandic magic, and I couldn't believe my luck.

PLAY Food

Astrid Taran

Food and Beverage

As a low-cost carrier, food and beverages are not included on PLAY flights and must be purchased. Perusing the menu, I noticed that there weren't many savory options on the flight besides three sandwiches, a cup of noodles, and a cup of Icelandic "couscous stew." Most travelers booking a budget airline are not doing so for the food options, so the smaller food menu was understandable. I was pleased to see Icelandic snacks and drinks available, so I ordered an Icelandic beer and Icelandic chocolate and a warm baguette with ham and cheese. The baguette was disappointing, as there wasn't much ham or cheese on it, but I was later able to sample the other two sandwiches on the menu, a vegan falafel wrap, and a club sandwich. Both were much more impressive, with the fresh and tasty vegan wrap being the menu's star. While the prices weren't exactly low, I did find them fair and on par with prices found on other European carriers: my beer, chocolate, and sandwich cost about 20 euros ($24).

PLAY uniforms

Courtesy of PLAY

Service

Given that this was the carrier's inaugural flight to Europe, the PLAY flight crew was energetic and eager to assist the passengers on board. They went above and beyond in calming down a passenger in front of me who was a nervous flyer, giving her updates about any upcoming turbulence. I especially appreciated the flight attendant giving us the heads up over the speaker about the Northern Lights—I definitely would not want to have slept through that! I was also smitten with the attendants' comfy-chic uniforms comprised of a PLAY t-shirt, a cherry red blazer, and matching trousers. They looked modern, fun, and practical.

Value and Overall Impressions

In assessing the cost of my flight, I was surprised by how much value I got for such a low price. My extra legroom fare was valued at $325.95, with a carry-on luggage fee of $34 and an in-flight meal charge of $20. Even if I added on a checked bag for $44, my total cost for a round-trip flight to Iceland on PLAY would still clock in at around $400—a very affordable price for a comfortable flight to Europe.

Overall, my experience on PLAY's inaugural flight was excellent. Even without crossing off a major bucket list experience like seeing the Northern Lights, the excellent service, smooth check-in process, and ample amount of pitch I got to enjoy in the comfort of my seat made my trip to Iceland memorable. PLAY's business model is an ambitious one, and I'm excited to see where it takes them as they enter a competitive low-cost space once dominated by the currently on-hiatus Norwegian Airlines. As budget carriers continue to expand service, many Americans will be rooting for PLAY to correct the errors that led to WOW air's demise and serve as a way to experience the beauty of Iceland without breaking the bank.