Pan Am and Sir Freddie

By | Category: Travel rumblings

In Florida’s Key West tonight there will be a party. It’s to celebrate the fact that Pan Am is 85 years old and it’s being held in the place where Pan Am was born. That Pan Am is no longer with us doesn’t seem to matter. Ex-staff and those that are interested just decided to celebrate an airline that will hardly be forgotten given how much of an icon it was to travellers.
Unlike another forgotten airline which probably had as much if not more significance – at least for British travellers – and for which there was no party last month. I am talking of Sir Freddie Laker’s Skytrain which began a transatlantic service between Gatwick and New York on 26th September 1977, thirty five years ago. It heralded the idea of cheap flights and buying meals on board and no-frills airlines. Just about every no frills airline from Southwest in the US to Ryanair and easyJet, Air Berlin and Wizz studied the business model of Freddie Laker.
But Skytrain is also linked with Pan Am for it was they who decided to compete on price with Laker and which eventually brought about Skytrain’s eventual demise. Laker subsequently sued Pan Am – amongst other airlines – for predatory pricing and won. Nonetheless that was the end of Skytrain and Pan Am eventually couldn’t compete for much longer either. That went bust in the early 1990’s too along with forgotten airlines such as Braniff, Debonair, People’s Express, XL Airways, and flyGlobespan.
So at the Pan Am party will a glass be raised to Freddie Laker? They might not but we should for without it there wouldn’t have been the boom in flying that allowed us to see other countries and destinations so cheaply.

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