Laker extends his reach for the sky

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Sir Freddie Laker, high-flying king of cut-price air fares, is going up-market. Yesterday, just over 15 years after the banks pulled the plug on his original airline, he expanded his relaunched operations with a daily flight direct from Gatwick to Miami.

Ever buoyant, Sir Freddie resurrected his airline a year ago, with a limited transatlantic service. The new Laker Airways Inc is a private corporation, formed in 1995, and is owned jointly by Sir Freddie and a US businessman.

Yesterday also saw the launch of a first class service on the airline. Previously his aircraft had an egalitarian one-class system. Sir Freddie shunned business and first class, insisting that telecom improvements would soon do away with the need for business travel.

But the inclusion of this high-margin luxury service is a clear reflection of the need to provide something more than just a cut-price flight in an increasingly competitive market.

Sir Freddie, 74, checked-in at Gatwick to join passengers on the first daily Miami flight.

He chatted to them as they queued to board and gave one unhappy traveller an instant pounds 60 cash handout from his own wallet to compensate him for difficulties he had had changing his tickets.

Sir Freddie said: "I'm thrilled this morning. It's taken me 15 years to get back to a daily service. I've no time to feel bitter about what happened - that was yesterday. Now we are thinking of tomorrow and the day after, and planning new ways to expand."