Einar Örn Ólafsson: Innovating Air Travel and Connecting Continents

Introducing Einar Örn Ólafsson, the visionary leader at the helm of PLAY airline as its CEO. With a wealth of experience in the aviation industry, Ólafsson brings a unique perspective and innovative approach to air travel. As one of PLAY’s largest shareholders and its former Chairman of the Board, he’s engaged in the airline’s operations and strategic direction. Succeeding the accomplished Birgir Jónsson, Ólafsson steps into this role with a clear vision for the airline’s future. Committed to continuity and excellence, he aims to leverage his investment in the company to build upon its successes.

PLAY operates daily flights and seasonal services in Canada, connecting John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport (YHM) in Hamilton to Reykjavik, with onward connections to over 30 European destinations. Under Ólafsson’s leadership, PLAY promises to uphold its dedication to affordability, sustainability, and exceptional service, ensuring seamless travel experiences for Canadians seeking to explore Europe and beyond.

Describe Play Airlines’ range of routes and destinations and discuss the factors influencing these selections.

Play Airlines operates a fleet of ten aircraft, primarily focusing on routes to Northern Europe, including Scandinavian cities and locations in the UK and Ireland. Our business model involves early morning departures from these cities, ensuring all aircraft return within seven hours. Subsequently, approximately half of our fleet crosses the Atlantic to serve destinations in the US and Canada, returning to connect with flights from Europe. This model allows efficient fleet utilization and caters to significant demand in these regions. Destinations in Southern Europe and leisure locations like Spain, Italy, and Croatia form the other part of our network, focusing on direct, low-cost travel.

In what ways does Play Airlines work to make flying more affordable for Canadian travellers?

As a low-cost, no-frills carrier, Play Airlines aims to provide the most economical options on all our routes. Our analysis indicates that flying with Play is the most cost-effective way for those near Toronto or Hamilton to reach Iceland and other major cities like London, Paris, and Dublin. While some may prefer direct flights, our competitive pricing makes us an attractive option for budget-conscious travellers.

In today’s competitive market, how does Play Airlines differentiate itself from other airlines?

Our strategic location in Iceland, positioned almost directly on many North Atlantic routes, enhances our operational efficiency. Unlike other carriers that may offer more amenities, our no-frills approach allows us to provide significantly lower fares. This cost advantage is particularly noticeable on our leisure routes to Southern Europe, where we remain the most affordable choice.

As the new CEO, can you describe your leadership style and how you motivate your team to uphold the airline’s standards and values?

My academic background is in engineering, and my approach is straightforward and data-driven. Although I’ve only been CEO for five weeks, my motivation strategy revolves around goal orientation. Employees find great satisfaction in recognizing their influential contributions, which helps to foster a deep sense of pride and commitment to maintaining high standards.

Sustainability is crucial in the airline industry. How is Play Airlines addressing this issue?

Our fleet comprises Airbus A320 family aircraft with the latest engines, making them among the most fuel-efficient in the skies. While transitioning away from oil-based fuels is a future goal, our current focus is minimizing our carbon footprint with the available technology.

Do you want to share any specific sustainability achievements or initiatives at Play Airlines?

We’re actively working to improve waste management by collaborating with airports to better sort and recycle the garbage collected on our flights. Despite the industry-wide challenge of waste treatment, our efforts are focused on local partnerships to enhance recycling practices, particularly for items like plastic bottles and other recyclable materials.

How is Play Airlines leveraging technology to enhance customer experience and operational efficiency?

At Play Airlines, we invest heavily in technology to streamline customer interactions and our operational processes. We’ve implemented advanced booking systems and mobile apps that provide real-time updates and hassle-free check-ins, improving the overall customer experience. On the operational side, using data analytics helps optimize flight routes and fuel consumption, reducing costs and minimizing our environmental impact.

Which challenges has Play Airlines encountered during its expansion, and in what ways have these been addressed?

Expansion brings numerous challenges, particularly in scaling operations and maintaining service quality. One significant challenge has been ensuring that our infrastructure and workforce grow proportionally. We’ve responded by enhancing our training programs and investing in more robust operational systems. Additionally, navigating regulatory environments in new countries has been complex, and we’ve tackled this by strengthening our legal and compliance teams to ensure smooth transitions into new markets.

Regarding Play Airlines’ strategy, can you discuss any pivotal partnerships or collaborations?

Partnerships have been central to our strategy, especially with airport authorities and other airlines. Collaborative agreements have allowed us to expand our network and offer more flexible travel options through code-sharing. We’ve also partnered with technology providers to leverage innovative solutions that enhance our operational efficiency and customer service capabilities.

What are the key trends in the aviation industry that Play Airlines is preparing to adapt to?

The aviation industry is rapidly evolving, with sustainability and digital transformation leading. We are closely monitoring the development of sustainable aviation fuels and exploring partnerships in this area to prepare for future regulations and environmental standards. Additionally, we anticipate that digital advancements will be crucial in reshaping customer expectations and operational practices. Therefore, we continuously explore emerging technologies to keep our services competitive and aligned with industry trends.

In light of Iceland’s recent volcanic activity, how has it influenced your operations and public perception?

While the ongoing volcanic activity in Iceland poses no direct operational threats, as the airports and roads remain open, it does impact our marketing. We strive to assure the global community that life in Iceland continues unaffected, which is essential for maintaining our market presence and traveller confidence.

Looking ahead, what are Play Airlines’ long-term goals, and how do you plan to maintain a competitive edge?

We aim to expand our fleet significantly within four to five years. This growth will enhance the connectivity of our hub and offer more travel options across the Atlantic, strengthening our position as a leading low-cost carrier in the market.

As you transition from board chairman to CEO, do you have any closing remarks regarding your new role at Play Airlines?

Having been involved with Play Airlines since its inception, my transition to CEO was natural. I’m familiar with the strategic direction and daily operations, making the shift to a more hands-on role exciting and fulfilling. I am enthusiastic about the future and steering the company towards continued growth and success.

Jennifer M. Williams | Editor-in-Chief



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