Play chief executive Einar Orn Olafsson is wary that expansion of the carrier’s model brings the potential for stiffer competition, although he floats the possibility of using an external base to operate services to Iceland.

Olafsson says the Icelandic carrier – having developed rapidly since emerging in 2021 – is seeking to moderate its growth.

But he adds that he has given thought to pathways for broadening Play’s reach.

“The question is, when is the right time?” he said, speaking to FlightGlobal in London on 9 May. “We are low-cost, leisure-driven airline.

“We have to step in where we feel we aren’t in direct competition with Ryanair – or not heavily so. So we have to tread carefully.”

Play Airbus-c-Play

Source: Play

Play operates to some 40 destinations from Reykjavik

Olafsson points to the economics of operating opposite-direction services, using, for example, Spanish crews and a Spanish air operator’s certificate to serve routes to and from Iceland.

“I guess that would be the premise of our next base. We’ll just fly to Iceland, instead of from Iceland, and then maybe grow from there.”

But while this could potentially lead to serving non-Icelandic routes, Olafsson says it brings competition threats. “We’d only do that if we feel we have the right product,” he states.

Play is aiming to increase its fleet, currently at 10 Airbus A320neo-family aircraft, by one or two per year.

Although recruiting cabin crew has been easy, attracting sufficient pilots “has been a challenge”.

“The Icelandic labour market is such that we’re never the cheapest country,” he says. “Pilots in Iceland have a very decent salary.

“So when we’ve exhausted the Icelandic market, we’ve tended to come [to the UK]. We have a number of British pilots on our rosters that either have moved to Iceland, or live [in the UK] and take 10 days in Iceland, 10 days [outside], back and forth.”

Play employed some 420 staff last year, with salaries and personnel costs amounting to $44 million – around 17% of overall expenditure.

Olafsson says that, while salaries are a large fraction of total cost, they are not comparable to such items as fuel. “We feel we can still compete, even though this is a bit of a challenge,” he states.