Discovering the Reality of Traveling with Low-Cost Airline Play to Europe
Iceland's Play airline is making waves by offering incredibly low fares to Europe, with one-way tickets priced as low as $100. Our special air correspondent recently embarked on a journey with this budget carrier to uncover any hidden surprises.
Iceland has long been a go-to destination for budget-conscious travelers, especially since Icelandair introduced affordable transatlantic flights in the 1960s. While the prospect of cheap travel to Iceland has always been tempting, the demise of Icelandic low-cost carrier Wow in 2019, despite offering jaw-dropping $49 fares from the United States to Europe, left many skeptical about the viability of such operations.
However, the story doesn't end there. Enter Play Airlines, which took off in 2019, acquiring some of Wow's assets and hiring former Wow crew members and executives. This Icelandic startup rekindled the dream of crossing the Atlantic for a fraction of the cost, with Play's fares occasionally plummeting to as low as $100 one-way from the U.S. to Europe during promotional periods.
As someone with ample experience traveling on no-frills airlines, I eagerly set out to explore what Play had in store. Last spring, I embarked on Play Flight 112 from Boston Logan to Keflavík Airport, Iceland's primary international hub. Here's a candid account of my experience.
Checking In at Boston Play operates out of Terminal E at Boston Logan International Airport, where most international flights are based. Regrettably, Play doesn't participate in the TSA PreCheck program, so it's essential to arrive at the airport with ample time to spare. Fortunately, my security check at the regular lines proceeded swiftly, allowing me to enjoy some leisure time perusing the duty-free shops and dining options in Terminal E before the 6:30 p.m. boarding call.
Play doesn't offer a dedicated lounge for its passengers. However, if you possess a Priority Pass membership, as I do, you can visit the Air France lounge for a quick bite and a glass of wine before departure.
At the Play boarding gate, a group of friendly crew members clad in scarlet uniforms facilitated our smooth boarding process. Since this was a new route, the plane wasn't fully occupied, making boarding a breeze. A flight attendant noticed my struggle with a carry-on bag and kindly helped me stow it in the overhead compartment.
The doors closed promptly for the 7 p.m. departure, although there was a brief delay pushing back from the gate. The pilot frequently provided updates, assuring passengers of a quick five-hour flight and ensuring those with onward European connections wouldn't miss them. I later learned that a substantial number of passengers were en route to various European destinations, including Paris, London, and Berlin.
Economy Seating for All Play's cabin interiors exude simplicity, and the seats are reasonably comfortable. The airline uses smaller Airbus A320 jets for shorter European routes and the larger 192-passenger Airbus A321 for transatlantic flights. For international flights, seats are arranged in rows of six, three on each side of the aisle, in an open layout, constituting a single class.
The seats feature gray synthetic leather upholstery, adjustable padded headrests, and were more comfortable than the typical seating on ultra-low-cost carriers. On my flight, all rows boasted an ample seat pitch of 33 to 34 inches, a stark contrast to the 28 inches in standard economy class. (It's worth noting that not all of Play's planes offer the same legroom, and the airline plans to introduce 22 more seats to the aircraft I flew on, with varying seat-pitch options that come at an additional cost.) As for other amenities, my space was fairly basic; there were no power outlets, Wi-Fi services, or in-flight entertainment. The compact tray table made it a bit challenging to use a laptop if the passenger in front reclined fully.
If your primary objective is securing a more affordable flight to Europe, Play delivers on that front.
Barbara Peterson, AFAR's special air correspondent The flight attendants were attentive and amiable, and shortly after takeoff, they wheeled a cart through the cabin offering drinks and snacks. In line with their à la carte pricing model, everything on board was available for purchase, with prices quoted in euros.
How Much Does it Cost to Fly Play? My roundtrip flight cost $345, with additional charges for one-way fees, including carry-on and priority boarding ($27), checked baggage ($35), and assigned seating ($22). Prices may fluctuate with demand and vary according to peak seasons. Depending on your destination and the ancillary services you select, roundtrip flights to Europe with Play range from as low as $200 during special sales to over $800. More appealing deals can be found during the off-peak seasons in the fall, winter, and spring.
Onboard the flight, beverage prices ranged from approximately $1 for a bottle of spring water to around $3 for sodas, coffee, and juices, with beer and wine priced between $9 and $10. There was also a selection of sandwiches available for around $9 to $10, in addition to various snacks. I opted for a cup of chicken-flavored ramen noodles for $5 and some Pringles for $3. On the return daytime flight, I selected a falafel wrap, while a fellow passenger highly recommended the hearty hot ham and cheese baguette. A flight attendant encouraged me to try Play's "famous" Icelandic candies, so I gave in and purchased a $3 licorice and chocolate bar. After indulging in these snacks, I comfortably dozed off for the remaining hours before landing.
Arriving at Keflavík Airport and Reaching Reykjavík Play offers convenient access to Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. We arrived right on time, just before 5 a.m., with the sun already casting its glow (this was approximately a month from the summer solstice). While some passengers rushed to catch their connecting flights, those of us staying in Iceland proceeded to the immigration and customs area. Within minutes, I found myself in the airport lobby, where I could grab a coffee and explore the small post-arrival duty-free shops while awaiting a bus transfer to the city. Reykjavík lies about 30 miles from the airport, and the journey to the central bus depot downtown typically takes around 45 minutes without traffic.
Destinations Served by Play Play operates daily flights to Reykjavík, Iceland, from three East Coast gateways:
- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI)
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
- New York Stewart International Airport (SWF)
From Reykjavík, Play offers connecting flights to around 35 European cities, including Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Paris, Stockholm, Venice, and Warsaw.