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EDITIONS
Thursday, 26 September, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
That was then: Sir Freddie Laker
Sir Freddie and his Skytrain
Famed for launching Laker Skytrain in 1977 - the first attempt to open the skies for low cost travel - what has become of the man himself, Sir Freddie Laker?

September 1977
Freddie Laker began flying his Laker Skytrain planes from London to New York.

With tickets costing 118, it was the first low cost operation of its type, and attracted huge public support. Other airlines lowered their fares in response, and by 1982 Skytrain had gone bust.

A court later ruled that the other established airlines had been using illegal price pressure to put Laker out of business.

Laker, who was knighted in 1978, had already become an icon of free enterprise. Embraced as an underdog, ordinary members of the public donated more than a million pounds to help keep his business afloat.

September 2002
Sir Freddie is now 80, and living in the Bahamas. He opted out of the low fares boom which has seen EasyJet and Ryanair become big players in the market, and instead runs a small airline - Laker Airways - in the Caribbean.

He says the anniversary makes him feel proud, sad and nostalgic - but he still has strong feelings about how the established airlines behave.

Sir Freddie with a model plane of his current company
"I feel rather pleased to think there are some low fare operations out there, but at this moment in time almost all the world's airlines are begging once again for the governments of the world to help them out.

"None of them seem to have the idea that perhaps they had too many aeroplanes, perhaps they were spending too much money on aeroplanes and not enough getting the aeroplanes in the air for the right number of hours. I can't see it stopping because the governments seem to love it."

He applauds the work of the low cost operators, but is sad that none has gone as far as he did.

"I'm not jealous in any shape or form, I'm just not that type of person. I think it's great they are still doing it and have produced low fare operators, but if you think about this low fare operation in Europe and even the US, it's still on short haul journeys. There's no-one with a dedicated low fares operation across the Atlantic."

"I had 29 airlines ganged up against me...You can say what you like about Margaret Thatcher, but I was her icon when she was talking about competition. 'Look at Laker Airways, competition pays,' she would say. But of course as soon as the heat was put on, she got me kicked out."


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