Laker's Mayday

An upstart airline crashes

The 200 passengers waiting patiently last Friday morning to board a DC-10 bound for Miami from Manchester, England, were stunned to hear over a loudspeaker that their flight had been canceled. An Airbus A300, already airborne toward Tenerife, reversed course and flew back to Manchester. At London's Gatwick Airport, stewardesses and ticket agents openly wept. Sir Freddie Laker, the swashbuckling British entrepreneur who had revolutionized transatlantic travel by slashing air fares, had abruptly announced that he was liquidating his debt-laden airline. Said one Laker counter attendant: "It's hit everyone, mate—like a smack in the mouth."

Launched in 1966 as...

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