Laker Airways

Laker Airways

Infobox Airline
airline = Laker Airways

logo_size = 250
fleet_size = 20 aircraft (14 widebodies and six narrowbodies) at 5 February 1982
destinations = Europe/North America/Asia
callsign = LAKER
parent = Laker Airways (Leasing) Ltd.
company_slogan = Take a Laker! (mid-'70s)
founded = 1966
headquarters = London Gatwick Airport
key_people = Sir Freddie Laker, Alan Hellary, John Seear, Peter Yeoman, Bill Townsend, Cliff Nunn, John Jones, Richard Boyton
hubs = London Gatwick Airport
Berlin-Tegel International Airport
secondary_hubs = Manchester International Airport
focus_cities = Glasgow Prestwick
frequent_flyer =
lounge =
alliance =
subsidiaries = [International] Caribbean Airways (part-owned)
Laker Air Travel Ltd.
Arrowsmith Holidays Ltd.
Laker Holidays GmbH
website = [ Laker Airways Information Website]

Laker Airways was a privately owned British airline founded by Sir Freddie Laker in 1966. It originally was a charter airline flying passengers and cargo worldwide.

It became the first long-haul, low-cost, "no frills" airline in 1977, operating low-fare scheduled services between London Gatwick Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. However, the company did not survive the economic recession of the early 1980, and operated its last flight on February 4, 1982, the day after it went bankrupt.

The formative years

Sir Freddie Laker unveiled his airline - Laker Airways - to the press in February 1966. The airline commenced commercial operations from its Gatwick base in July 1966 with two former BOAC Bristol Britannia 102 series turboprops. These were supplemented and eventually replaced by five new BAC One-Eleven 300 short-haul jet aircraft from December 1967. Sir Freddie ordered a fourth aircraft to be delivered in 1968. He also acquired another relatively new aircraft, originally delivered to the failed British Eagle airline, second-hand in 1971. These were the mainstay of the fleet for its short to medium-haul charter operations to holiday resorts in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands for many years.)

New commercial developments

The introduction of several new, short-haul jetliners into a small airline's fleet over a short time necessitated more efficient as well as more profitable of marketing. Laker Airways came up with a "time charter", whereby tour operators had financial incentives to charter an aircraft's capacity for a season. This densure the fleet was fully used throughout the entire season, smoothing out the peaks and troughs that characterise charter airlines. It also helped make Laker Airways the most profitable charter airline of its era in Britain.

An overseas base

August 1968 saw the establishment of its first overseas base at Tegel Airport in what used to be West Berlin. The company had up to three of its BAC One-Elevens stationed there until 1981 when these aircraft were replaced with one of its three newly acquired Airbus A300 B4 series widebodies, at the time the largest aircraft operated out of any Berlin airport. Its Berlin operation was staffed by 90, mainly local workers. Throughout this period it carried thousands of holidaymakers from the Western parts of the formerly divided German capital to resorts in the Mediterranean and Canary Islands.

In 1972 Laker Airways co-founded Gatwick Handling, a Gatwick handling agent that has become part of the Aviance group, with Dan-Air. Each airline owned 50% of Gatwick Handling at its inception.

Cost saving

Laker Airways pioneered cost-saving to reduce its engines' wear and tear, reduce fuel consumption as well as make planes fly longer without a refuelling stop than indicated by the manufacturers' range specifications.

Reduced thrust take-off technique

Laker Airways was first to use the "reduced thrust" take-off technique it had developed for the BAC One-Eleven. Reducing the BAC One-Eleven's take-off thrust reduced wear and tear of the Rolls-Royce Spey engines. This increased the time before overhaul, reducing costs. It also prolonged the engines' life. A Rolls-Royce engineer at the plant that overhauled Spey engines for his employer's airline customers remarked that the engines Laker Airways sent for overhaul used to be the best-maintained of any BAC One-Eleven engines at that plant.

Faster climbs

In the days when airports and air space were relatively uncongested, Laker Airways instructed crews flying BAC One-Elevens to line up the aircraft behind a Boeing 707, the most common long-haul jet aircraft, while queuing for take-off. The airline instructed crews to tune in to the Boeing 707 and to begin a conversation. The aim was to obtain information about that aircraft's height while continuing its climb.

The four-engined Boeing 707 was designed as a long-haul, intercontinental jet. It had more powerful engines than the BAC One-Eleven and other short-haul jets. This helped Laker's BAC One-Elevens to climb faster to cruising altitude, reducing time spent climbing, which is fuel-intensive.

Increasing range by introducing weight-saving measures

Among the weight-saving measures Laker Airways used to make its aircraft fly longer without refuelling than the manufacturers indicated was a baggage allowance limit of 15kg rather than the more usual 20kg as well as carrying fewer passengers than the aircraft could hold. This policy was employed when the airline took its BAC One-Elevens. By limiting the free baggage allowance and restricting passengers, the company used the weight saved to carry more fuel to increase range. The was sufficient to permit non-stop flights from London Gatwick or Berlin Tegel to Tenerife, the most popular resort in the Canary Islands for British and German tourists, at least in one direction, depending on strong or winds. This helped make Laker's One-Elevens more competitive than larger, longer-range aircraft operated by rivals, especially for tour operators struggling to fill a bigger aircraft profitably. If the passenger load was greater than 70, the charterer paid for any stops, encouraging operators to keep to 70 passengers.

Alternatively, weight saving from limiting free baggage could be traded for reducing fuel consumption on shorter routes well within the BAC One-Eleven's range by making the aircraft lighter, even with a full load of passengers.

Introduction of DC-10 aircraft

The policy stood Laker Airways in good stead when the airline introduced the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 series 10.

This DC-10 lacked the range of the series 30. It was optimised for the US and Canadian domestic markets and only had sufficient range to fly non-stop between the East and West coasts of North America. The aircraft McDonnell Douglas was offering had been built against an order placed by All Nippon Airways. That had cancelled its order to switch to the L-1011 Tristar, a widebodied trijet built by Lockheed. Before offering the aircraft to Laker, McDonnell Douglas had asked British Caledonian (BCal) whether it was interested. BCal was looking for a widebody replacement for its aging Boeing 707 and Vickers VC-10s. BCal rejected this offer because the aircraft had insufficient range to fly non-stop from Gatwick to the distant points on its network.

Despite these drawbacks, Laker Airways took the aircraft. The airline concluded it could fly non-stop from the UK to any point east of the Rockies by keeping the baggage limit at 15kg and reducing single-class seating from 380 to 345. The saving could be used to carry more fuel. The calculations had shown that even with reduced seating, it had only to fill 52% of the seats to break even. Moreover, Laker Airways had figured that the low break-even would enable it to operate its proposed London-New York Skytrain with a lower break-even compared to the 707, an aging narrowbodied aircraft whose costs were higher per passenger. These factors swung the firm in favour of McDonnell Douglas's offer .

In addition, Laker Airways agreed with Japanese lessor Mitsui that was going to buy the aircraft from McDonnell Douglas before leasing them to Laker to pay for the leases out of flying revenues only. This meant the airline was not going to pay for the aircraft if they were not revenue-earning. It proved to be effective to minimise the financial risk an investment on this scale posed.

Revolutionising air travel

Beginning of the battle for "Skytrain"

The early 1970s saw the airline and its owner battle with aviation authorities in the UK and US to gain approval for a low-cost, "no frills" transatlantic service to link London and New York daily. This was to be marketed as Skytrain for £32.50 one-way in winter and £37.50 in summer. Two Boeing 707-138Bs were acquired from British Eagle in 1969. Both were operated by Qantas when new. They were subsequently purchased by the Kuwait Finance Corporation, the Kuwait government's overseas investment arm, which had leased them to British Eagle until its demise in November 1968.

Since approval for Skytrain was not forthcoming for several years, Laker Airways needed alternative work to keep its long-haul planes busy. Initially, both Boeing 707s supplemented the BAC One-Elevens on Mediterranean and Canary Islands routes, such as Gatwick-Palma de Mallorca and Gatwick-Tenerife. From December 1970, one aircraft was used for a once-a-week low-fare service linking Luxembourg with Barbados on behalf of International Caribbean Airways, set up by the Barbados government in 1970, which was initially 33% - eventually 49% - owned by Laker Airways. This aircraft sported International Caribbean as well as the Barbadian flag on both sides of the forward fuselage in place of Laker and the Union Flag featured by the company's other aircraft. Both aircraft replaced Bristol Britannias on the airline's long-haul flights, an increasing number of which were affinity group charters to North America, primarily the US.

Widebody era

In November 1972 Laker became the first airline outside North America to operate the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 widebody when it took a pair of new series 10 aircraft from MDC's factory in Long Beach, California, via Japanese lessor Mitsui. (These aircraft already incorporated Skytrain titles in a hybrid "Union Flag-come-Stars and Stripes" scheme on each side of the white, upper forward part of the fuselage, even though approval to commence a commercial "Skytrain" service was still being withheld .

implified charter rules across the Atlantic

On April 1, 1973 new charter regulations in the UK, the US and Canada replaced the complicated "affinity group" rules with simplified rules termed "Advanced Booking Charters", popularly known as ABC. The rules enabled Sir Freddie to build a successful ABC flights business across the North Atlantic over the next couple of years making Laker Airways the market leader in transatlantic ABC flights. During the early to mid-1970s the airline ran low-key advertising on hoardings and public transport in London, Manchester and other large British cities under the motto "Take a Laker". Laker Airways flew the world's inaugural ABC flight on April 2, 1973 from Manchester to Toronto on one of its McDonnell Douglas DC-10s with about 250 passengers who had paid £49 return.

Laker's transatlantic charters provided meals, movies - new in those days that helped distinguish it from the competition - and a free bar.

A third DC-10 series 10 widebody joined the fleet to meet growing commitments in the ABC flights market. Despite market leadership position in the transatlantic ABC market, Sir Freddie considered this second best in the absence of his Skytrain service. He wanted routes like Gatwick to New York. This was dropped when it failed to become popular.

Redrawing traditional battle lines

A feature characterising the long battle over Skytrain was that the protagonists were two private airlines rather than the independents on one side and corporations such as BEA and BOAC on the other. British Caledonian (BCal), Britain's foremost wholly private independent airline and the country's "second force" carrier, Laker Airways' neighbour at Gatwick, became the fiercest opponent. The fact that scheduled operations were regulated and limited opportunities existed for independent airlines on major domestic and international routes explains BCal's opposition. This also meant that most bilateral agreements the UK government had negotiated with overseas counterparts contained no provisions for a second British scheduled airline in addition to the UK flag carrier. The few bilateral agreements that did contain such a provision - for instance, the Bermuda II accord governing commercial air services between Britain and the US - contained no provision for UK authorities to designate a third carrier. For this reason any licence to Laker to operate a scheduled service on a route of its choosing and nominating it as the UK's second designated flag carrier on that route prevented BCal from operating a competing service.

Another reason it opposed plans was that under Second Force, which defined aviation policy throughout the 1970s and first half of the 1980s, BCal was the Government's "chosen instrument of the private sector". This meant the Government supported BCal's worldwide ambitions before considering rivals. In addition, BCal, Laker and most other independents in the UK were denied access to Heathrow, the main market for scheduled airlines in the UK, close to three quarters of the population in London and two thirds of the population in Southeast England. Confining airlines to Gatwick forced them to compete for only a quarter of London's and a third of the Southeast's population. BCal felt Laker would undermine Second Force and weaken it by making it difficult to be a competitor to established airlines.

"Skytrain" takes to the air

Laker Airways had a fourth McDonnell Douglas DC-10 series 10 widebodied jet during the summer of 1977 to launch its daily Gatwick-JFK Skytrain in autumn that year. By that time the work force had expanded to 1,000 (up only 500 during the mid-1970s).

"Skytrain" was inaugurated between London Gatwick and New York JFK on September 1 in 1977. Laker Airways expanded to Los Angeles, California (1978) and Miami, Florida (1980) as well as Tampa, Florida (1981) from Gatwick, Manchester and Prestwick. The airline ordered a further two McDonnell Douglas DC-10 series 10 widebodies as well as five longer range McDonnell Douglas DC-10 series 30 widebodied aircraft. The company acquired two second-hand Boeing 707-351B narrowbodied long-haul aircraft from Cathay Pacific (Northwest Airlines being the original operator), to commence non-stop operations to the US West Coast prior to receiving the first McDonnell Douglas DC-10 series 30 aircraft that were on order. At the same time, the firm retired both the older, shorter fuselage Boeing 707-138Bs and disposed of one BAC One-Eleven (acquired by Dan-Air). This left with 20 aircraft comprising 14 widebodies and six narrowbodies (11 DC-10s [five series 30 and six series 10 aircraft] , three A300s, two 707s and four One-Elevens), doubling the size within nly five years. Over this period the number working for Laker Airways and associated companies doubled again to 2,000.

During the 1981 summer period Laker operated up to three daily frequencies each way between Gatwick and JFK and Gatwick and Miami as well as twice daily round-trips between Gatwick and L.A. This made Laker the fourth biggest transatlantic scheduled airline behind British Airways, Pan Am and TWA).

Abortive attempts to expand "Skytrain"

Plans for a new low-fare Australian service

In the early 1980s Laker Airways proposed a direct low-fare service from London Gatwick to Australia with one stop. It was to be one flight a day in each direction using the airline's five McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 widebodies. In contrast to Skytrain, this was to feature a first class section called Pullman. It was to operate three flights per week each to Sydney and Melbourne, respectively, the remaining destination to be Perth. [ [ "Laker and BCal bid for kangaroo route", Flight International, 7 February 1981, p. 330] ]

Laker's application was dismissed by Peter Nixon, the Australian Minister for Transport. Nixon maintained there was no demand for a low-fare service. The government-owned Qantas had exerted pressure to protect its duopoly on the "kangaroo route", which it used to share with British Airways under a pool agreement. The Australian government's refusal prompted Sir Freddie to comment that "Mr Nixon probably thought that the earth was still flat".

Both the CAA and Australian authorities took a similar negative view of a rival application by BCal to launch a conventional, scheduled service between Gatwick and Australia via Colombo at afour flights a week each way. [ [ "CAA refuses to license new UK-Australia operators", Flight International, 16 May 1981, p. 1366] ] )

econd designated UK carrier to Hong Kong

The UK government decided in 1979 to open the route between London and Hong Kong to competition. This was to be by a second British scheduled carrier to ease the shortage passengers were experiencing at peak times on the ten-times-a-week monopoly service by British Airways .

A race ensued when BCal, Laker and Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong's home town airline as well as "flag carrier", filed their application with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in London.

Laker proposed a daily Skytrain linking Gatwick and Hong Kong via Sharjah to be operated with single-class, 380-seat McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s. At the CAA hearing the airline proposed larger, higher capacity Boeing 747s as demand justified. The company tried to convince the CAA that its additional all-economy class discount service was the best option to alleviate shortage of seats on this route. Its analysis showed the bottom end of the economy market was the most under-served segment because of the scarcity of low fares. The other airlines used Laker's analysis in support of their claims that Skytrain would flood the market with cheap seats that risked undermining profitability without doing anything to alleviate the shortage of premium seats. Laker retorted that low fares would stimulate the market by creating untapped demand from people who could not afford to fly this route because of British Airways' fares, rather than taking market share from competitors. It pointed to the success of its transatlantic Skytrain in helping create demand while maintaining that its rivals' proposals would do little to meet the unsatisfied demand for low-fare seats.

The CAA awarded the additional daily scheduled service to BCal, which had proposed running a conventional service from Gatwick via Dubai using its growing fleet of McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 widebodies in a three-class configuration featuring a first and an executive class in to economy. BCal had also agreed to offer a number of low fares that would match the lowest fares had proposed. The CAA rejected Cathay Pacific's and Laker's applications, clearing the way for BCal to become second British scheduled carrier on that route.

However, Hong Kong's Air Transport Licensing Authority (ATLA) refused to endorse BCal because many felt upset that Cathay Pacific was excluded from one of the world's most lucrative routes. This caused a row between the UK and the colonial administration in Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific began a lobbying in the Crown Colony as well as in London, stressing it had invested millions in the British economy at a time of unemployment in the UK by placing large orders for Rolls-Royce RB211-powered Boeing 747s. The UK government allowed Cathay Pacific to join Laker in appealing to John Nott, the UK Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, against the CAA's award of a licence exclusively to BCal.

The Secretary of State overturned the CAA and opened the route to all three airlines without restrictions frequencies of service. For Laker Airways this turned out a partial victory because the ATLA continued to refuse a reciprocal permit, without which Laker's service remained grounded.

Cathay Pacific commenced a thrice-weekly service between Hong Kong and Gatwick via Bahrain on July 17, 1980 using a Rolls-Royce RB211-powered Boeing 747-200B ahead of BCal, which began a four-times-a-week Gatwick-Hong Kong service via Dubai on August 1, 1980 using a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30.


Laker Airways planned to link its Gatwick-Los Angeles Skytrain with the proposed Gatwick-Hong Kong Skytrain across the Pacific via Honolulu and Tokyo to create the first daily round-the-world through service by a British airline in both directions. Pan Am was the only airline to operate such a service. This was to be marketed under the trademark Globetrain.

Cathay Pacific was among airlines attacking Laker's plans. The established transpacific airlines were concerned that Laker was likely to create excess capacity, threatening the profitability as well as long-term viability of these routes . Sir Freddie said Cathay seemed concerned about sharing the Hong Kong-Tokyo route with a competitor because this route was the source of profits for Cathay Pacific's Asian and transpacifc operation.

Laker abandoned Globetrain due to inability to obtain regulatory approvals.

660 new "Skytrain" routes to Europe proposed

In 1979 Laker Airways became the UK launch customer for the twin-engined Airbus A300 short-to-medium-haul widebodied jet. The airline ordered 10 series B4 aircraft to serve a network of up to 660 European Skytrain routes in a 314-seat single-class configuration at one flight a day in each direction. The majority of the low-fare network was not going to touch the UK, making it the first pan-European commercial airline.

Laker's European Skytrain plans were opposed by BCal, which was keen to expand its European network beyond routes linking Gatwick with Paris Charles de Gaulle, Amsterdam Schiphol, Brussels National (Zaventem) and Genoa. BCal needed to develop its connecting traffic at Gatwick by growing the European network to include Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Southern Europe to help it increase load on flights to Africa, South America and the US as well as improve profitability. BCal came up with its own proposal, Miniprix, to counter Laker. This alternative was less ambitious than Laker's. Including BCal's existing four European routes, it envisaged linking Gatwick with up to 25 points on the Continent. Most services were to be operated with BAC One-Eleven 500 and the Boeing 707-320Cs, at one flight per day in each direction. BCal was both the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 narrowbody as well as the Airbus A310 widebody as long-term replacementsfor its narrowbodied aircraft on these routes.

Dan-Air and Britannia Airways, the UK's leading charter airlines, feared Laker would be forced to dump this additional widebody capacity on the European charter market, creating excess capacity that would collapse charter rates.

The CAA heard Laker's as well as BCal's and other UK independent airlines' proposals. It rejected Laker. It awarded two scheduled licences to Laker Airways, one for Gatwick - Berlin Tegel and the other for Gatwick-Zürich, following British Airways' decision to abandon short-haul routes it had been operating from Gatwick at low frequencies since the late 1970s and to surrender unused licences to the CAA. By the time the CAA awarded Laker these licences, the airline was experiencing financial difficulties and had to dispose of three A300 widebodies to cut costs by reducing the number of aircraft types as well as the overall size. Laker Airways intended to commence operations on both routes during the spring of 1982 operating two flights a day each way utilising spare capacity on its remaining BAC One-Elevens. The airline ceased to exist before the inaugural date and the CAA transferred both route licences to Dan-Air. [ [,%201982 "Laker’s routes are frozen", Air Transport, Flight International, 13 March 1982, p. 596] ]

Laker did introduce a short-lived scheduled service between Manchester and Zürich during 1981, which it operated at aone flight per day in each direction using a newly delivered A300 widebody. This route, the airline's only short-haul scheduled operation, had come about after British Airways' decision to abandon its loss-making Manchester-Zürich services. Laker's application to have BA's licence resulted in its becoming the UK flag carrier between Manchester and Zürich. The airline's subsequent withdrawal and its demise in turn resulted in Dan-Air becoming flag carrier between Manchester and Zürich.

BCal began offering Miniprix fares on off-peak services on Gatwick-Amsterdam after it had obtained approval from the UK authorities and their Dutch counterparts. [ [,%201986 "Air Europe bids to compete in Europe", Air Transport, Flight International, 29 November 1986, p. 6] ] )

Additional "Skytrain" routes to the United States

Laker Airways sought to strengthen its position as a transatlantic airline by applying to the CAA and the US Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) for licences to serve additional US cities under the Bermuda II UK-US accord. Both the CAA and the CAB approved the application to commence daily Skytrains from Gatwick, Manchester and Prestwick to Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC. The company did not have aircraft to use the licences immediately. Its deteriorating financial position did not let it add more aircraft. By the time Laker Airways went out of business these licences remained unused and they were allocated to other airlines.


Laker Airways did not have the financial strength to survive the recession of the early 1980s and competition by established scheduled airlines. According to Swiss aviation enthusiasts' magazine "Interavia" in 1978, Laker's paid-up share capital was £10,000. This compared with £12m for BCal and £100m for British Airways. The weak financial position was underlined by the fact that 90% of share capital was held by Sir Freddie and the remainder by Joan Laker, a former spouse, while Laker Airways was a subsidiary of Jersey-incorporated Laker Airways (Leasing). Although this had served the firm well since, it deterred lenders. The fact that the airline's ultimate holding company was in a "off-shore tax haven" outside jurisdiction of UK law increased any lenders' risk to get their money back.

In addition undercapitalisation and weak finances Laker Airways was not backed by any significant assets. The bulk of its fleet - including all widebodies - were leased, as was the maintenance hangar at Gatwick that also housed the airline's offices. The only financial back-up that Laker Airways had was Sir Freddie's stud farm and his personal wealth.

Economic climate

Both the UK and US were in recession in the early 1980s, characterised by low growth, high unemployment, high inflation and high interest rates. During that period the company was expanding to sustain commercial success generally and that of Skytrain in particular. Laker Airways needed to ensure to take advantage of additional opportunities to expand its business to maintain its position as Britain's second largest independent airline and as third principal long-haul operator behind British Airways and BCal. Eventually, the company borrowed at high interest rates. The high interest rates were a major cause for the increase in the firm's borrowing costs as well as its debts. [,9171,925283,00.html Laker's Mayday] Time Magazine 1982-02-15]

Although the Laker Airways fleet contained a greater proportion of modern widebodied aircraft than most of its competitors, which made it cheaper to operate and maintain, the airline felt the sudden tripling of the price of crude oil in the aftermath of the Shah of Iran's fall from power. Laker Airways needed to pay the high spot market oil prices because it could not hedge its future supplies by negotiating fixed-rate, forward purchases. Such financial derivatives were non-existent.

The airline did attempt to protect itself against the sterling-dollar exchange rate by buying US dollars at a fixed rate. This was a necessity as most of its costs were in dollars whereas most of its income was in pounds sterling. The company's growing problems were exacerbated by wrongly anticipating the sterling-dollar rate for the 1981/2 winter season. During all 1980 and the better part of 1981 the rate was 1:2. The pound could buy two dollars because sterling was kept high by Britain's North Sea oil exports and the importance these exports assumed against high crude oil prices. Laker Airways did not anticipate the speed of sterling's subsequent decline. This meant that it needed to pay more for dollars during than it had budgeted, leading to an outflow of funds at a time of financial crisis.) [ [,9171,950605,00.html Laker's Lament] Time Magazine 1981-11-02]

trategic mistakes

Skytrain concept was targeting people clamouring for discounted air fares across the Atlantic. This was a market the established transatlantic scheduled carriers had ignored, mainly because it was not profitable given their high cost structures and complex organisations.

Although Laker Airways had lower costs and was a simpler organisation, it needed to high, year-round loads to make money at at discount prices. Most ofpassengers were likely to travel during the summer peak period. This made it challenging to achieve high loads during the winter.

The beginning of the end

The beginning of the end came when Pan Am, a transatlantic competitor, decided in October 1981 to drop its lowest economy fares where it was in competition with Skytrain by 66%. Laker retaliated by introducing a cut-price premium cabin branded Regency Class. Following the end of the 1981/2 winter peak, state-owned British Airways and TWA, Laker's other transatlantic competitors, dropped their fares by a similar amount. There was insufficient traffic to support four airlines competing across the North Atlantic between January and March.

The final blow

The final blow came when British Caledonian (BCal) found out about a rescue package that McDonnell Douglas and General Electric, the suppliers of DC10 widebodied aircraft and its CF6 engines to Laker as well as BCal, had putting together. (GECAS, a unit of GE, were lessor of some he widebodied aircraft in Laker's fleet). BCal wrote to other operators of the DC10/CF6 in Europe saying that BCal on behalf of all operators warned McDonnell Douglas and GE that in the event of the rescue for Laker being approved, none of these airlines would do business with those companies. McDonnell Douglas and GE did not to go ahead. Laker Airways collapsed during the early morning of 4 February 4 1982 with debts of £270m, the biggest corporate failure in Britain.

Sir Freddie sued British Airways, BCal, Pan Am, TWA, Lufthansa, Air France and other airlines for conspiracy to put his airline out of business by predatory pricing. They settled out of court for US$50m, which let Laker Airways pay its debts. British Airways reached a separate out-of-court agreement for £8m.

Lasting impact on the industry

While Laker Airways failed, low fares and buying meals on board are becoming popular. Similarly, buying tickets on the day of travel has been adopted by airline shuttles plying the United States' Northeast corridor and on the Eastern shores of Australia.

Laker Airways' most important legacy was that pioneering low-fare services across the Atlantic helped pave the way for low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair, liberating the industry from the regulatory straightjacket IATA had imposed for decades in collusion with governments. These governments invariably were sole or majority owners of most IATA airlines. This was Laker Airways' greatest contribution to its industry's future development.

Sir Freddie Laker became an inspiration and cautionary tale for Sir Richard Branson and at Virgin Atlantic Airways, when they set about long-term strategy [ [ Branson, R. in "TIME EUROPE - BUSINESS & CULTURE - Freddie Laker - A British entrepreneur, he took on the airline giants and made flying affordable (.... "He also gave me fantastic advice about Virgin Atlantic. He warned me I would have to defend my business against monopolist and protectionist governments, and also explained why we needed to beat competitors on quality of service as well as price. ....")", 60 YEARS OF HEROES, Special Edition, 2006] ] [ [ "ON THE SOAPBOX: Sir Richard Branson (".... Having said that I'll never forget Freddie Laker's advice not to build an airline on economy passengers. ....)", - business travel news & advice, Mon., 6 December 2004] ]

Incidents and accidents

Laker Airways had an unblemished safety record during its 16-year existence. There never was a serious incident or accident involving a Laker Airways aircraft. In fact, not a single passenger's life was harmed as a result of good airmanship and an high safety consciousness throughout the organisation, which made the airline stand out from most of its rivals.

This was one of the company's greatest contributions to British commercial aviation.

Additional Laker facts

* The colours used in Laker Airways' livery, i.e. black, red and white, were Sir Freddie Laker's racing colours.
* "Panamania" and "Teenie Weenie" were the nicknames Sir Freddie Laker gave Pan Am and TWA respectively, the two US-based rivals of his transatlantic "Skytrain" operation.
* A Laker Airways McDonnell Douglas DC-10 series 10 widebodied aircraft was one of four widebodies that were specially flown in for the inauguration of the then new terminal building at Berlin's Tegel Airport on November 1, 1974. (A British Airways Lockheed L-1011 "Tristar" 1, a Pan Am Boeing 747-100 and an Air France Airbus A300 B2 were the other widebodies specially flown in on that day to mark this occasion.)
* Following Laker Airways' demise at the end of the first week of February in 1982, a number of aircraft the airline had operated at that time were quickly re-allocated to other operators. These included two McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 widebodies that joined the fleet of British Caledonian Charter, BCal's charter division, four BAC One-Eleven 300 narrowbodies that replaced the seven One-Eleven 200s BCal had inherited from British United Airways at the time of its formation and three Airbus A300 B4 widebodies that were placed with Air India.
* Laker Airways (Bahamas) was a US-registered airline based in the Bahamas to which Sir Freddie Laker lent his name and operational expertise. The airline was established in 1992 with financial assistance from Oscar Wyatt, a Texas oilman and business partner of Sir Freddie Laker. The initial fleet comprised two Boeing 727-200 "Advanced" narrowbodied jet aircraft. The company subsequently leased 2 McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 widebodied jet and in 1996 commenced a daily service linking Fort Lauderdale in Florida with London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow Prestwick. Laker Airways (Bahamas) stopped operating in 2005 when the firm was wound up.



* ( [ "Airliner World" online] )
* ( [ "Airliner World" online] )
* ( [ "Aviation News" online] )

External links

* [] - A virtual airline for MS FS2004 website dedicated to Laker Airways.

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  • Laker, Sir Freddie — ▪ 2007 Frederick Alfred Laker  British entrepreneur (b. Aug. 6, 1922, Canterbury, Kent, Eng. d. Feb. 9, 2006, Hollywood, Fla.), as the brash, ebullient founder and chairman of Laker Airways Ltd. (1966–82), revolutionized the airline industry by… …   Universalium

  • Laker — /ˈleɪkə/ (say laykuh) noun Sir Frederick Alfred (Freddy), 1922–2006, British businessman; noted for the price cutting of his Laker Airways Company …  

  • Freddie Laker — Sir Frederick Alfred Laker (6 August, 1922 ndash; 9 February, 2006) was a British airline entrepreneur, best known for founding Laker Airways in 1966, which went spectacularly bust in 1982. Laker was one of the first airline owners to adopt the… …   Wikipedia

  • Freddie Laker — Sir Frederick Alfred Laker (* 6. August 1922 in Canterbury; † 9. Februar 2006 in Miami), besser bekannt als Sir Freddie Laker, war ein britischer Unternehmer. Bekannt wurde er vor allem durch seine Fluggesellschaft Laker Airways, die als erste… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Virgin Atlantic Airways — Infobox Airline airline=Virgin Atlantic Airways logo=Virgin Atlantic.png logo size=263 fleet size=38 [ [ pagetype=65 appid=1 mode=summary owner=virgin+atlantic UK CAA Fleet Database Virgin Atlantic] ] …   Wikipedia

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