Play, the new low-cost airline, promises to “pay less, play more”. So we put it to the test.
Play CEO Birgir Jónsson (another former WOW executive) told The Globe that WOW’s initial model was successful, but when it expanded beyond short-haul flights from the East Coast, it encountered financial problems. The game was born out of a back-to-basics mentality for shorter routes.
A few weeks after Play launched a new daily route from Logan, I booked a one-way flight to London. (The game goes to London Stansted Airport rather than Heathrow.) Here’s what it looked like:
RESERVATION: Play’s website is clean and (sometimes) easy to use. You can currently reach 21 destinations across Europe from Logan. After entering the destination, you are immediately redirected to a monthly fare calendar that displays prices by date. It’s easier than the traditional method of searching for a specific date or date range that you’ll find on most airline websites. I paid an extra $19 to select a seat for my one-way flight to London, but a problem on the website continually prevented me from selecting a seat.
SUPPLEMENTS: There are no extras on Play. You will pay for everything. The only thing included is a personal item, which must fit under the seat in front of you. Additional costs vary according to destination and time of year. I paid $19 to choose a seat and $72 to check a bag for my flight. Most airlines allow a maximum weight of 50 pounds for checked baggage, Play’s limit is 44 pounds, so be sure to weigh your suitcase before you go. A carry-on bag would have added $40 to that total. After extras and taxes, my tempting base fare of $218 to London came to $348. Once on board, you will pay for drinks and food.
REGISTRATION: There are no self check-in kiosks at the airport, so allow time to check in at the counter. I arrived early for my flight and did not encounter a queue. The counter agent immediately apologized for the issue that prevented me from choosing a seat in line. She helped me find a seat, although I was a bit apprehensive when she told me she had been working for two weeks and had “the attention span of a goldfish”. But otherwise the process was smooth.
THE FLIGHT: Unfortunately, the the goldfish counter attendant put me in a seat that had already been assigned to someone else. I wasn’t the only one given a place that had already been claimed. I heard this had happened to others on the flight. The gentleman double-booked in my seat was adamant he wasn’t moving, so I waited for the flight to board before finding a new seat. Luckily the flight was half empty.
Once the fussing of the seats subsided, I noticed something remarkable. I had amazing legroom. The seats on the all-new Airbus A321 had a pitch of 34 inches (the measurement between one seatback and the same spot on the next seatback.). Currently, JetBlue’s seats are 32-inch pitch and Spirit is 28-inch pitch. The seats were a little hard, but the legroom made me too happy to notice. Unfortunately, Play’s fleet isn’t a consistent 34in. The average pitch on Play is 30 inches, so getting that extra legroom is luck of the draw.
There’s no onboard entertainment or Wi-Fi – again, bare bones – so be prepared to bring your own or read the menu for several hours. My first impression of the young stewardesses was that they looked like members of an Icelandic pop band. The uniforms consist of t-shirts, sporty red jackets and white sneakers. But they take their job seriously and I was impressed by their friendliness.
The transfer to my flight from Iceland to England went smoothly. It helps that Keflavik airport is tiny.
THE VERDICT: Aside from the confusion with my seat and the issue with the website, which I was told was being resolved, the experience on Play was better than flying on the now defunct WOW. Travelers are familiar with paying for extras these days, but before buying your ticket, make sure you understand the extras and then compare the fare with other airlines. If I encountered outrageous fares on other airlines, I would consider Play again, especially if seat pitch remained a delicious 34 inches.
Christopher Muther can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.