Sir Freddie Laker, the aviation pioneer responsible for introducing cheap fares across the Atlantic, died Thursday at the age of 83. Laker ran Laker Airways, a British carrier, that flew the Laker Skytrain from London to New York. The airline offered $100 fares in 1977, 2/3 below what competitors were charging, making it possible for people to travel across the Atlantic on a whim for the first time (yes, Icelandair also had cheap fares at that point, but they required a stop in Keflavik—Laker was nonstop). Who needed a hot meal when the fare was so cheap?
Pan Am matched their fares in 1981 (after colluding with other airlines), and knocked the budget airline out of business.
Laker is the reason you can fly to London for $100 today, and his vision—stuff ’em in, and take out the frills—has been adopted by most US airlines today. We can thank (and blame) him for the way industry looks, but without his idea, we’d all be paying $1000 to fly to London. And who would want that?