Iceland aviation: PLAY and post-COVID recovery prompt growth

Premium Analysis

Traffic figures for 2022 from Icelandic new-start low cost airline PLAY show the balance between its three market segments in 2022. These are defined as 'From' (travelling from Iceland to other destinations), 'To' (travel to Iceland from elsewhere) and 'Via' (connecting over Reykjavik).

PLAY's main rival, Icelandair, pioneered the concept of using Reykjavik as a hub to offer connections between Europe and North America. The idea was copied by WOW air, the last Icelandic low cost airline to disrupt this market, which started operations in 2012.

WOW air collapsed in Mar-2019 after overreaching itself with too rapid a pace of expansion. Icelandair also suffered financial stress due to fast growth prompted by competition from WOW air. These events, and COVID-19, led to contraction in Iceland's airline capacity, but recovery from the pandemic and PLAY's entry have brought about renewed growth.

WOW air's ability to stimulate the market and to capture significant market share illustrate the potential for PLAY – if it can maintain disciplined growth. Thanks to WOW air, both PLAY and Icelandair have learnt important lessons about the dangers of overexpansion.

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