Leading article: A popular capitalist

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The Independent Online

From boom-time to bust, Sir Freddie Laker was the very model of a British entrepreneur. A jaunty, commonsensical populist, he was the little man who took on the giants: In the short term, he lost. In the longer perspective of history, he won.

His big idea was that air travel need not be the privilege of the rich, that there was a whole other market out there just waiting to be tapped. And he was right. Thousands flocked to cross the Atlantic for the first time, thanks to affordable tickets on his famous Skytrain.

Sir Freddie can rightly claim to be the pioneer of cheap air travel. The US no-frills transatlantic airline People Express was modelled on Skytrain. Without it, could there possibly have been Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, or the dozens of low-fare airlines that have followed?

Britain is now the world hub for affordable air travel. We may have our misgivings about the environmental impact of so much flying, but none at all about Sir Freddie's achievement. We salute him as a democratic capitalist and a globaliser before his time.

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