Airline maverick Freddie Laker dies at 83

 

Aviation business maverick Freddie Laker has died in Miami, a family source said.

A business partner of Mr Laker's son said the 83-year-old died early yesterday of undisclosed causes.

In the 1970s, Laker Airways' low-fare Skytrain service from Britain to the United States opened new opportunities for millions of tourists who had previously regarded air travel as a preserve of the rich.

Skytrain, which opened in 1977 offering a one-way fare of $100 between London and New York, sparked a price war as major airlines rushed to follow its lead, many of them going into the red as a result.

In the five years before its collapse, Laker Airways carried over three million passengers on its fleet of 20 aircraft and rose to fifth place from 29th in the Atlantic air travel rankings.

Mr Laker's success and entrepreneurship spirit of free enterprise - he advertised the venture himself on television and in posters - won him the admiration of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

But in February 1982, Laker Airways folded after it became burdened with millions of dollars in debt. The collapse left an estimated 17,000 travellers stranded abroad and severely damaged the folk-hero image of the man known as Sir Freddie.