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What It’s Like Flying PLAY Airlines Short-Haul From Iceland [March 2024 Review]

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Ryan Smith
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Ryan Smith

Content Contributor

69 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 197U.S. States Visited: 50

Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publicat...
Edited by: Chris Dong
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Chris Dong

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Chris is a freelance writer and editor with a focus on timely travel trends, points and miles, hot new hotels, and all things that go (he’s a proud aviation geek and transit nerd). Formerly full time ...
& Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury


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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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These days, it seems like new airlines are popping up all the time. There are new low-cost and ultra-low-cost players in Southeast Asia, Europe, regional U.S. markets, and even Iceland. Such is the case with PLAY Airlines, based out of Keflavík International Airport (KEF) and offering routes throughout Europe and North America.

PLAY was founded in 2019 and began service in April 2021. What’s it like flying this young airline? And how does it compare to your other options? My wife and I recently flew PLAY from Keflavík to Frankfurt Airport (FRA) in Germany — a flight of 3 hours and 40 minutes — to find out.

Here are the positives and negatives of flying with PLAY.

PLAY Airlines Positives

There were multiple positives with PLAY during our March 2024 flight, as well as during the booking process. Let’s start with these.

Route Options

PLAY Airlines’ route map is solid and continues to grow. PLAY added service to Toronto last year, for example, and its destinations in Europe are numerous.

PLAY Airlines route map
PLAY Airlines route map. Image Credit: PLAY

Seat Costs Are Easy To Understand

With a low-cost carrier like PLAY, you’ll pay for everything not included in your fare. And what’s included varies greatly by the type of fare you choose. However, once you’re on the seat map in the booking process, if you want to choose a seat, the color-coded system is easy to understand. Occupied seats, seats included with our fare, and those we had to pay for were obvious.

Play Iceland seat costs during booking
Seat map and associated costs. Image Credit: PLAY

Inclusive Booking Option

While providing mandatory passenger information, PLAY had a non-binary option to be inclusive of all its passengers.

Play Iceland passenger information with nonbinary option
Passenger information page, including non-binary option. Image Credit: PLAY

On-Time Arrival

PLAY claims 83% of its flights departed on time in 2023. Our flight managed to depart 5 minutes early and land 10 minutes early, so I believe it. If 83% is accurate, that’s well above average for an airline’s annual report.

Play airline Iceland A321neo view from seat in economy
Looking forward from our seats inside the cabin.

New Cabins

With a new airline, you should expect the plane interiors to be new. There were no signs of age, wear and tear, broken pieces, or other issues that come with aging cabin interiors.

Play airline Iceland economy cabin A321neo
Overhead lights and air nozzles above our seats.

Space Between Seats

The fact my knees weren’t pressed against the seat in front of me was a big surprise. With the ever-quickening race to the bottom with seat pitch — the fancy term for the space between your seat and the seat in front of you — I had fully expected a tight squeeze with PLAY. It’s a low-cost airline, after all. That wasn’t the case, though. I’m 5 feet 10 inches tall and still had a few inches from my knees to the seat in front of me.

Play airline Iceland pitch A321neo
Spacing between my knees and the seat in front of me.

And if you wanted even more space, seats with extra legroom at the front of the plane were available for an extra fee. During boarding and shortly before takeoff, the cabin crew announced how many of these were still available if customers were interested in paying for upgrades.

Play airline Iceland more space seats on A321neo
Seats with extra space for sale at the front of the plane.

PLAY Airlines Negatives

Every airline has its drawbacks, including PLAY. Let’s look at what these were in our experience.

Overly Cautious Payment Processor

The third time’s a charm, right? I was able to pay for my flight online only with the third credit card I tried. PLAY’s checkout page rejected my attempt to pay with The Platinum Card® from American Express as my first preference to earn 5x points on airfare (limited to $500,000 of these purchases annually, then 1x). Next, I tried the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card for 3x on travel (limited to $150,000 of annual spending across all bonus categories), but that didn’t work either.

Finally, I was able to pay with my Citi Premier® Card, earning 3x on airfare. However, I needed to receive a one-time passcode first. The other cards didn’t even get to this step.

Play Iceland confirmation code during payment
Use of two-factor authentication. Image Credit: PLAY

I appreciate web security as much as the next person, but it was a bit frustrating having cards rejected by the website for unknown reasons. And it’s not like I was at a suspicious location; I was on my own laptop, at home, and not running any programs that would cause red flags for PLAY’s website.

Tough To Find an Employee at Check-In

We had checked in online and had our boarding passes on our phones. We’d also added checked baggage to our tickets when booking. Thus, the signs for the bag drop area were easy to find, and the process was simple.

Play airline Iceland bag drop signs at KEF
Signage at KEF airport for the self-serve baggage drop.

We simply printed our bag tags, scanned them at this machine, and sent our bags on their way. No people involved.

Play airline Iceland self serve bag drop at KEF
Sending our suitcase into the baggage system.

And therein lies the problem: If you needed to talk to someone — to change your checked baggage allowance, for example — finding someone wasn’t easy. This is mostly a self-serve airline until you’re inside the plane, so you won’t find an abundance of employees waiting around to help you.

Unfriendly Boarding Agent

With a 6 a.m. flight departure, we were at the airport early and were tired. Thus, boarding as soon as possible to get our backpacks into the overhead bins, rather than at our feet, was important for being comfortable and trying to sleep on the plane. With that in mind, boarding started while my wife was in the bathroom, so I boarded solo.

With a coffee in one hand and phone (with mobile boarding pass) in the other, the employee running the boarding operation barked at me for not showing my passport and boarding pass at the same time. When I tried to hand her the phone to free up a hand to fish out my passport, she barked at me again.

When my wife caught up to me in the jet bridge, her first words were, “Was the employee checking tickets beyond unfriendly with you?” This employee was more interested in asserting her authority than facilitating the boarding process.

Extras Escalate the Costs Quickly

If you’re flying with a carry-on bag only and will accept a random seat assignment, fares can be cheap. However, costs escalate quickly with add-ons. For our flight in March 2024, the base fare started at $159.57 per person.

The table of fees has “starting at” prices for a checked bag of $51 to and from Europe; that jumps to $78 for flights to North America. And those prices increase if you don’t add your checked bag at the time of booking.

It’s possible to ditch the basic fare for a value fare to get priority boarding, a checked bag, and seat selection — with an added cost, obviously, but cheaper than buying these items individually.

Play Iceland booking costs KEF FRA
The fare options for our booking. Image Credit: PLAY

Luckily, PLAY’s website provided warnings during the booking process to let us know that adding checked bags later on would cost more.

Play Iceland luggage costs during booking
Costs for luggage on our fare. Image Credit: PLAY

With the warm clothes we needed to pack for Iceland’s winter, not checking luggage was impossible. Paying for extras added to our cost; if you don’t need a checked bag, fares are much cheaper.

Final Thoughts

PLAY Airlines from Iceland has a solid route network and can offer attractive pricing for those who travel light. It’s also punctual and works well for those who don’t mind handling the check-in and bag-drop process independently.

However, there are some drawbacks to flying with PLAY, such as needing to pay for anything extra you want, whether that’s a drink during the flight, choosing your seat, or checking luggage. And these fees can add up quickly. Once you’re on board, though, the actual flying experience was better than we’d expected.

The information regarding the Citi Premier® Card has expired and the card is no longer open to applicants.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was PLAY Airlines founded?

PLAY was founded in July of 2019. However, the airline’s first flight was only on June 24, 2021 to London Stansted Airport.

What did PLAY Airlines used to be called?

The airline was first called WAB air (for “We Are Back”), founded by executives of the shuttered WOW air. However, it changed to PLAY before services launched.

Do you get food on PLAY Airlines flights?

No, as a low-cost airline, food and drinks are not included in fares. However, you can purchase food and drinks during flights.

What aircraft does PLAY Airlines fly?

PLAY has an all-Airbus fleet, consisting of A320neo and A321neo aircraft. The airline had previously ordered an A321LR variant to serve a route to Orlando, but that route was scrapped — and so was the need for the A321LR.

Ryan Smith's image

About Ryan Smith

Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publications including AwardWallet, The Points Guy, USA Today Blueprint, CNBC Select, Tripadvisor, and Forbes Advisor.


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