Sir Freddie Laker, who died in Miami last week aged 83, will be remembered by the aviation community for his entrepreneurial acumen, his flamboyant charm, but most of all for being the “people’s champion”. He took on the incumbent flag carriers across the Atlantic and, although he ultimately failed, for a time he made cheap air travel available to many and sowed the seeds for today’s low-fare revolution. Laker began his career with Short Brothers at Rochester in 1938, became a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary team during the Second World War and made his fortune supplying cargo aircraft for use in the Berlin airlift in 1948. He joined British United Airways in 1960, but disillusionment with the highly regulated airline industry prompted him to start his own airline, Laker Airways, in February 1966. In 1977 he obtained permission for his transatlantic Skytrain service, offering fares one-third those of other airlines. But in February 1982, Laker Airways collapsed with debts of more than £250 million. He will be remembered as a big man who took on big business, but it was a bitter-sweet victory.

Source: Flight International