Canada Calling For Iceland’s Play

The airline’s North America network will now extend to five destinations.

Credit: Trevor Benbrook / Alamy Stock Photo

Fresh from announcing a slew of new European routes, Icelandic carrier Play has unveiled plans to launch its first flights to Canada.

The airline, which launched in June 2021 and operates a transatlantic connecting model via its Reykjavik Keflavik (KEF) base, intends to begin serving John C. Munro Hamilton International (YHM) on June 22. Flights from Iceland’s capital will be daily.

Hamilton is located 50-mi. away from Toronto city center, with a travel time of around 1 hour. The airport is a lower-cost alternative to the city’s main international gateway at Toronto Pearson (YYZ) and closer to Niagara Falls.

Play said the service would offer one-stop connections to 15 destinations in Europe.

“I have been eagerly anticipating the launch of ticket sales for flights to Canada, as it will be a major market for us at Play,” CEO Birgir Jónsson said. “Our services in North America have been met with great success, and I am excited to be able to offer more people the opportunity to travel between North America, Iceland, and Europe at affordable prices.”

Hamilton has been without a nonstop connection to Europe for more than three years. Norwegian operated flights from Dublin (DUB) during the 2019 summer season but ended the route in September that year.

Although Play will face no direct competition on the 4,231-km (2,285-nm) sector between Reykjavik and Hamilton, indirect competition will be provided by Icelandair and Air Canada via Toronto Pearson.

OAG data shows that Icelandair operates KEF-YYZ daily, increasing to 2X-daily in May. Air Canada, meanwhile, plans to commence flights on the route in June, operating 4X-weekly.

Hamilton will become the fifth North America destination Play intends to serve during the summer 2023 season alongside Baltimore Washington (BWI), Boston (BOS), New York Stewart (SWF) and Washington Dulles (IAD).

The network expansion comes after the carrier last week added four new European destinations. Service to Dusseldorf (DUS) in Germany will start on June 8, followed by Aalborg (AAL) in Denmark two days later. Two more Danish cities will launch later in the month, with flights to Aarhus (AAR) commencing on June 12, and Billund (BLL) on June 15.

In total, the airline plans to fly to 40 destinations this year with 10 aircraft. It also hopes to carry up to 1.7 million passengers in 2023, up from about 800,000 last year.

Play carried 74,620 passengers in December 2022 with a load factor of 82.8%, up from 79.1% in November. Routes to and from London, Paris and the Canary Islands were popular with a load factor of around 90%, the airline said. 

About 29% of passengers during December were traveling from Iceland, 31% were traveling to Iceland and 40% were connecting passengers.