Laker takes to the skies again

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The Independent Online
Thirteen years after other airlines forced his revolutionary Skytrain service out of the skies, Sir Freddie Laker is to operate aircraft across the Atlantic, it was announced yesterday.

The 73-year-old pioneer of cut-price air travel is to have a 49 per cent stake in a US-based carrier, to be called Laker Airways Incorporated.

The airline will take delivery of three McDonnell Douglas DC10-30 series aircraft between now and May next year.

"Start-up operations, subject to government approvals, will be to and from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale to London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow in the UK, with Berlin and Milan to follow," said spokeswoman Naomi Graham yesterday. "US domestic routes and other international operations are in the planning stage."

The new company is 51 per cent owned by Oscar Wyatt, chairman and founder of Houston oil company the Coastal Corporation. He will have 75 per cent voting rights, while Sir Freddie's holding will give him the remaining 25 per cent.

Sir Freddie and Mr Wyatt said: "We are sure that the long-haul travel industry is about to boom and this is the ideal time to go on to the Atlantic.

"The US and European economies are on a positive upswing and there are millions of potentially new tourists from eastern Europe and the unification of Germany, which augurs well for the long term."

Sir Freddie used DC10s for Skytrain, his no-frills service which got the go-ahead in 1977 and was allegedly driven out of business by rivals in 1982.

Following a long legal battle over allegations of conspiracy and violation of anti-trust laws, he reached an out-of-court settlement with British Airways and other airlines which paid him nearly pounds 6 million.

He is regarded as having changed the face of aviation and Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic named one of his first planes Spirit of Sir Freddie.

Three years ago Sir Freddie launched Laker Airways (Bahamas), flying from the United States to a Lonrho-owned gambling resort in the Bahamas.