Sir Frederick Alfred “Freddie” Laker (6 August 1922 – 9 February 2006) was a British airline entrepreneur and founder of Laker Airways, one of the earliest airlines to adopt the “no-frills” business model.
Born in Canterbury, Freddie joined the aviation industry making tea and sweeping floors at Short Brothers before working as an engineer and aircraft designer. During the Second World War, he flew cargo planes for the Air Transport Auxiliary, becoming familiar with many far-flung airfields and different makes of aircraft. He put this knowledge to use after the war, setting up Aviation Traders and in 1948 purchasing a dozen old bombers with which he made his first fortune transporting people and cargo during the Berlin Airlift.
Freddie founded Laker Airways in 1966, capitalising on the package holiday boom by offering tour operators cheap rates if they could guarantee to fill his planes for an entire season. By the late 1970s, the airline introduced low-cost ‘Skytrain’ transatlantic flights, significantly undercutting the larger competition who were flying half-empty planes while Freddie’s were full. In time though, other carriers matched Laker Airways’ low fares and the business was not able to maintain the level of custom, ultimately going bankrupt in 1982. After settling a litigation against rival airlines, Freddie moved to the US and the Bahamas, where he set up a smaller airline between the two locales from 1992–1996.
Although Laker Airways had succumbed in a cut-throat industry, the business model that he pioneered with Skytrain would be later mirrored worldwide by airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair and Southwest Airlines. Freddie was knighted in 1978, and was honoured by the British Travel & Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2001.