Born Frederick Alfred Laker, Sir Freddie Laker was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the spring of 1978 in recognition for his contribution to commercial aviation and the British economy. Known for his pioneering marketing ideas within the travel industry, Laker founded Britain’s first all-jet air carrier, Laker Airways Limited in 1966, which eventually became the largest individually and privately owned airline in the world. He also founded the “SKYTRAIN” service, which revolutionized the airline industry by offering the first no-reservation, low-cost air service. By 1981, over 2 million passengers had traveled SKYTRAIN.
Sir Freddie’s love of aviation was initially inspired by the sight of the Hindenberg and a Handley Page biplane crossing his home town of Canterbury, England. After flying with the Air Transport Auxiliary in World War II, Laker started Aviation Traders Limited, which handled the buying and selling of government surplus items including trucks, aircraft radios, and even a cherry orchard, which he and his wife picked themselves.
In 1948 and 1949, a Laker company flew on the Berlin airlift, and in 1953 Laker formed Channel Air Bridge Limited. The company was one of only two to sell air transportation of vehicles, passengers and cargo (including live cattle and horses) on the same aircraft.
Laker was also involved in the design and development of London’s Gatwick Airport with an integrated rail link direct to London. He was the architect and first managing director of British United Airways, which operated the largest fleet of non-government aircraft in the U.K. During this time, Laker also helped develop the BAC 1-11 jet, Britain’s most commercially successful aircraft.
For 35 consecutive years, Laker managed and operated commercial aircraft businesses to profitability – an enviable record indeed.
In 1998, Sir Freddie was made a Legend at the Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C., and in 2001 he was inducted into The Travel Industry Hall of Fame in London. In October 2002 he received the Year 2002 Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Award at a ceremony held in Tampa, Fl. And, at the 2003 Paris Air Show, he was selected as one of the most important, influential and intriguing personalities in the history of flight.
In October 2003, Sir Freddie was a guest at a reception at Buckingham Palace held by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh to mark the contribution of Pioneers to the life of the Nation.
Though Sir Freddie Laker is no longer with us, his name and his spirit continues to inspire those in the travel industry in the form of the Freddie Awards.
The Freddie Awards were created in 1988 by InsideFlyer magazine Publisher and Editor, Randy Petersen, to recognize the world’s most outstanding frequent travel programs. Petersen named the awards for Sir Freddie Laker in honor of Laker’s pioneering marketing efforts and competitive spirit. Today, Freddie Award-winning frequent travel programs are the gold standard against which all others are judged, much like Sir Freddie himself.
Laker himself said about the awards, “Seeing my name on the Freddie Awards gives me a great thrill. This whole business excites me so much, I can’t believe Randy thought to name them after me.”
Sir Freddie Laker will be missed and forever remembered.