‘A fun, progressive and playful airline’: Meet the new CEO of Iceland’s low-cost Play Airlines

Meet Einar Örn Ólafsson - the new CEO of Play Airlines
Meet Einar Örn Ólafsson - the new CEO of Play Airlines Copyright Bernhard Kristinn
Copyright Bernhard Kristinn
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Play Airlines’ new CEO is determined to see the low-cost Icelandic carrier grow while maintaining its no-frills - but great service - ethos.


Iceland’s Play Airlines is fairly new on the aviation scene, but it’s already making an impression on the industry.

Founded in 2021, it has become well known for allowing its crew to express themselves with tattoos, piercings, and whatever hair colour they feel like having.

Each staff member can wear gender neutral uniforms and trainers, as opposed to tight outfits and high heels.

Einar Örn Ólafsson was only installed as the CEO of Play in April, but that approach is something he’s sticking to.

“We like to think of ourselves as a fun, progressive and playful airline and we encourage our crew to express themselves freely at work,” he tells Euronews Travel in an exclusive interview.

“Ensuring the comfort of everyone onboard a Play flight has always been very important to us, and this by extension naturally extends to our crew members. We believe this sets us apart from the rest,” he adds.

“We know that if our crew is happy and comfortable in their own skin, then this radiates out into the service we provide for our passengers.”

‘We offer a no-frills approach to flights’

In April, Ólafsson ​​took over the role of CEO from previous holder Birgir Jonsson, but he has been involved from the very beginning of Play Airlines as the largest shareholder.

Since 2021, he says, Play’s mission has been to “provide affordable air travel while offering a fun and enjoyable flying experience for passengers.”

That approach seems to be working. “We quickly gained attention for our progressive policies and commitment to customer satisfaction, carving out a niche in the competitive low-cost airline market,” Ólafsson tells Euronews Travel. He hopes this popularity will continue through the company’s ongoing scale-up phase.

With its hub at Keflavík International Airport, it currently has a fleet of 10 Airbus aircraft and flies to 39 destinations in Europe and the United States. In 2023, the airline carried some 1.5 million passengers.

While that is tiny compared to, say, Ryanair’s 181 million annual travellers, Ólafsson says Play hopes to build on that number with its unique approach to the aviation industry.

Great views: A Play Airlines craft flies past a mountain range
Great views: A Play Airlines craft flies past a mountain rangePlay Airlines

“We strive to offer budget friendly fares for customers and this is made possible through a cost-effective business approach,” he explains. “We offer a no-frills approach to flights, doubling-down on dependable, safe and cost-efficient air travel, which allows passengers to spend their hard-earned cash while they’re in their destination, rather than on a seat.”

The narrow-body aircrafts from the Airbus A320 family the company uses are relatively sustainable - as far as air travel goes - as well as more fuel efficient than the average craft.

Making stopovers in Iceland part of the experience

While a number of airlines stop over in Iceland on the way from or to the United States, Play Airlines makes it part of the experience.

“All our flights stop over in Iceland before continuing to the US or Europe in order to collect travellers between these destinations and fill flight capacity,” Ólafsson says.

That makes the service more affordable and the stopovers can be extended, too, depending on each traveller’s preference.

“Iceland is a very popular tourist destination known for its natural beauty and [a stopover] allows travellers to explore all that our wonderful country has to offer,” he says.


Travellers can decide whether to spend anything from two hours to 10 days in Iceland, before catching their connecting flights to the US or Canada.

“These longer stop-offs have proven popular with our customers,” he explains.

But do the stopovers put some customers off? Not according to Ólafsson: “Travelling via Iceland also allows us to offer much cheaper transatlantic flights than our competitors, so for those looking to reach the USA or Canada for the best possible price, these stopovers are well worth the extra hour or two.”

How does Play Airlines reflect Iceland onboard its aircraft?

It’s not easy to stand out in a world full of low-cost airlines, but Play Airlines prides itself on its determination to inject “a true Icelandic experience from the moment they step onboard,” Ólafsson says.

“We’re proud of our Icelandic roots,” he explains. “This includes onboard announcements delivered in our native language and English, and incorporating Icelandic design into our branding. Passengers can also enjoy an Icelandic-inspired menu, showcasing our favourite local snacks and beverages.”


Although still establishing itself in the market compared to more familiar airlines, the company is determined to build its reputation, while standing out from the crowd.

“While Play may be considered a ‘no frills’ low-cost carrier, that doesn’t mean our service compromises on quality or comfort. Far from it. This can be seen in our approach to cabin design, seating options and onboard amenities - all aimed at providing an exceptional service for our travellers,” Ólafsson says. “There’s something for everyone.”

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