Discount startup Play expands to Canada, targets Toronto

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Travelers in Canada‘s largest metropolis will soon have a new low-cost option when flying to Europe.

Icelandic low-cost carrier Play is expanding its footprint in North America with a new destination in Hamilton, Ontario. The city will also allow the airline to serve the greater Toronto metro area when flights launch June 22.

The addition of Hamilton to Play’s network marks the airline’s first destination in Canada. So far, the startup airline’s network in North America has focused on the U.S., with connecting service to multiple cities in Europe via the carrier’s hub at Keflavik International Airport (KEF) near the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik.

Play’s current U.S. gateways are Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), Dulles International Airport (IAD) and the New York City area via Stewart International Airport (SWF) in Newburgh, New York.

SWF is about 70 miles north of midtown Manhattan and echoes Play’s attempt to serve Toronto via Hamilton, which is Canada’s ninth most-populous metro area.

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From Hamilton’s John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (YHM) — about 50 miles from Toronto — passengers can connect to 15 European destinations such as Berlin, London, Paris, Copenhagen and Dublin.

The airline said the decision to add services to YHM was in response to increasing demand for international travel and strong bookings for existing routes. Play also said it flew over 789,000 passengers and maintained a 95% on-time arrival rate in 2022.

“Taking off in the spring, this route expansion in Toronto plays into our next phase of our strategic growth that will advance our North American presence,” said Play CEO Birgir Jonsson.

Play has grown rapidly since its launch in 2021. Since first starting services between Reykjavik and London’s Stansted Airport (STN), the low-cost carrier has added a variety of destinations in Europe and the U.S.

Play’s most recent U.S. expansion came in the nation’s capital region, where the airlines began operations in August from Dulles.

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The carrier’s model closely mirrors the now-defunct Wow Air, which ceased operations in 2019 after months of financial difficulties. Play’s ultra-low-cost model charges less for fares. However, flyers pay more for additional services like checked baggage and seat selection.

“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,” Jonsson 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.”