Second Best Month So Far and Strong Long-Term Sales
PLAY carried 16,689 passengers in November and the load factor was 58.3%, compared to 67.7% in October. A new rise in COVID-19 cases in mid-November in Iceland and the European markets served by PLAY inevitably scaled down a highly positive trend in demand for the month. Changes to bookings are less than in the last wave of COVID-19 but the last weeks have seen a clear change of dynamic in the markets. Long-term bookings remain strong but short-term bookings for seasonal weekend trips slowed down which negatively affected our load factor in November. This hesitation in the markets is due to rapid changes in travel restrictions, a rising number of COVID-19 cases across Europe, and uncertainty around vaccinations and the Omicron variant.
Only October has had a higher load factor since the beginning of flight operations. Considering the challenging environment with the pandemic and the fact that November has traditionally lower demand in the aviation industry we consider the situation quite acceptable. With vaccination rates in our markets increasing, we are cautiously positive going forward but the uncertainty associated with the pandemic will remain for the foreseeable future. PLAY is well prepared to weather this uncertainty with flexible operations, a very favorable financial position with a strong cash balance, operational cost being lower than expected and no interest-bearing debt. Therefore, the company has significant strength and flexibility to continue its growth and ramp up in the ever-changing market dynamics.
23 destinations in Europe
On November 10, PLAY announced four new destinations for summer 2022. The destinations are Bologna in Italy, Stuttgart in Germany, Prague in the Czech Republic, and Lisbon in Portugal. The new destinations were very well received, especially Lisbon with strong bookings following the launch. On December 2, PLAY added flights to Dublin in Ireland, Madrid in Spain, and Brussels in Belgium to its summer schedule for 2022. With this addition, PLAY will fly to 23 destinations in Europe next year. The next months will see a further expansion of PLAY’s network as destinations in North America get added.
“The load factor in November is quite acceptable considering the negative impact of COVID-19 and especially the new Omicron variant, which is creating uncertainty in the short term. November is historically a difficult month in our markets, so it is very encouraging to see that it is our second-best month so far this year in terms of utilization. Another positive point is that our incoming bookings are growing steadily as we become a better-known brand in our markets. This in turn offsets fluctuations in the Icelandic market. We are on track to expand our network next spring and most notably to add several North American cities to our expanding route map. By transforming to a hub-and-spoke model we are adding a source of passengers and revenue that will strengthen our foundation and decrease our exposure to fluctuations in the more dynamic Icelandic market. The recent developments of COVID-19 have no effect on our long-term plans and I am very pleased with the performance of the company to date and the warm reception of our customers. I remain in awe of the ambition and professionalism of all my colleagues on the PLAY team and continue to be very positive towards the future,” states Birgir Jónsson, CEO.