An Icelandic airline is the latest in an increasingly crowded field of startup carriers vying for the hard-earned travel dollars of budget-conscious Canadians.
Reykjavik-based Play — which was founded in 2019 to offer low-cost air service between North America and Europe — announced Tuesday it is expanding to Canada.
The carrier said beginning June 2023, it will offer flights from Canada to 26 European destinations including London, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Brussels, Stockholm, and Gothenburg.
All of the Icelandic airline's new Canadian flights will be offered out of Hamilton International Airport, and all routes will involve an approximately one-hour stopover at Reykjavik's Keflavik International Airport.
The stopover model was previously used by Wow Air, an Icelandic low-cost carrier that offered flights from North American cities, including Montreal and Toronto, to Europe via Reykjavik but went bankrupt in 2019.
Several members of Play's executive team, including CEO Birgir Jónsson, are former Wow Air executives.
“We’re proud to expand Play service to Canada with service in Hamilton, offering both Canadian and European travellers a new way to reach iconic destinations," Jónsson said in a news release.
"With our reliable and affordable flights, travellers can enjoy their destination rather than overspending on the flight to get there.”
In 2022, Play served 25 destinations including four in the U.S. The airline says it keeps fares as low as $169 one-way by offering a streamlined, no-frills service without costly features such as magazines, Wi-Fi, and entertainment.
Play passengers pay extra for optional add-ons like in-flight meals, carry-on and checked baggage, seats with extra legroom, and cancellation protection.
While the discount carrier model has been used successfully in Europe and the U.S. by airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Frontier, it is still relatively new in Canada.
However, Edmonton-based Flair Airlines has been aggressively expanding in the last 18 months in an effort to capture the Canadian budget flying market.
Calgary-based Lynx, which launched last year, also bills itself as an ultra-low-cost carrier, while WestJet has been operating its own subsidiary low-fare airline, Swoop, since 2018.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2023.
Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press