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Laker Airways IT and charter

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Laker Airways IT and charter

Old 23rd Aug 2022, 15:22
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If a good book is your thing, I devoured (not literally) "The Glory Years of Sir Freddie Laker" on a LHR-SFO flight back in 2019 and have just bought the sequel, "The Second Coming of Sir Freddie Laker" for an upcoming US trip. It goes into detail on a lot of the wonderful posts above, highly recommended if you like that sort of read. Hope that's OK with mods, am not advertising as I have no skin in the game. Lots of detail on keeping all those DC-10s busy in the years before 1977 and Skytrain actually happening.
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Old 23rd Aug 2022, 15:27
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Originally Posted by WHBM
I believe the Regency Class seat vendor was left with a large unpaid debt at the bankruptcy of the airline.
I don't know if Laker were around long enough to do charters to Orlando. Their other Skytrain destinations were in fact just rollups of longstanding charter destinations, originally affinity group (going right back to the 1969 programme and 707s inherited from British Eagle at the latter's failure) and later ABCs. People I was at university with in 1977 from Los Angeles had come over on a Laker DC-10-10 ABC, which routed LAX-Bangor-Prestwick-Gatwick (tiring). They then came on by train to Edinburgh the next day, not having realised where Prestwick was !
Orlando only became a destination served from the UK from the mid to late 80s, Laker served Miami. The US Laker Airways from 1995 flew UK-Orlando with elderly DC10s up against newer A340s and B767s.
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Old 23rd Aug 2022, 17:40
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I flew Laker Airways three times in the 1970s. The first was a routine Manchester - Palma IT flight in 1974. Memorable only for the smoky atmosphere at the back of the cabin where the smokers were busy burning their way through the duty free ciggies.
Summer '77 saw me on Laker DC-10-10, G-AZZC, which was operating an ABC charter from Gatwick to New York. It departed four hours late and we were given refreshment vouchers by Gatwick Handling which were redeemed in the bar. Once onboard I found myself sitting next to an American gran heading home and a Jamaican pastor. When the flight attendants brought the bar trolley round the lady and I were reluctant to order anything vaguely alcoholic due to the cleric sat by the window. We relaxed when he ordered 'Scotch on the rocks but hold the rocks'.
IFE was basic, a film was shown on the screen at the front of the cabin. Food was OK Return flight was a few days before Skytrain started in earnest in September '77. This was similar to the outbound but operated by G-BBSZ in International Caribbean colours and delayed by about 20 hours. Arrival at Gatwick was about 3am and the aircraft was quickly turned round to fly to somewhere in the Med.
The following summer I decided to take the Skytrain and arrived at Victoria Station, London about 8pm without a ticket on the 'first come, first served' service. There were about 60 people ahead of me in the queue and with two flights I knew I would be heading to JFK next day. Tickets went on sale at 4am and I chose to take the later flight which was operated by Boeing 707 (G-BFBS). I had breakfast at a greasy spoon near the station before travelling to the airport. I declined the offer of a meal and I shared the ham and tomato sandwiches my mother had made with another lad who had brought a whole chicken. I noted that there was a holiday atmosphere on board the plane. Few days later I saw a newspaper article about huge queues at Victoria for the Skytrain flights. Due to entry requirements by the US authorities I had already bought the return ticket. This was on a Pan Am 747.
A plan to fly Laker to Greece on the A300 in 1982 came to nothing due to their bankruptcy. Shame! We went on a Britannia 737 instead.
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Old 24th Aug 2022, 08:10
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Originally Posted by Skipness One Foxtrot
If a good book is your thing, I devoured (not literally) "The Glory Years of Sir Freddie Laker" on a LHR-SFO flight back in 2019 and have just bought the sequel, "The Second Coming of Sir Freddie Laker" for an upcoming US trip. It goes into detail on a lot of the wonderful posts above, highly recommended if you like that sort of read. Hope that's OK with mods, am not advertising as I have no skin in the game. Lots of detail on keeping all those DC-10s busy in the years before 1977 and Skytrain actually happening.
We've discussed this same set of books in another thread recently, I can only second your recommendation. The story of Freddie Laker is also covered in the 1980 book '
Fly me, I'm Freddie Fly me, I'm Freddie
' which is available secondhand at prices at which you can't go wrong. It only covers his early years though. If you want the full story, part 1 'Laker'(
Amazon Amazon
) covers everything up to the 1982 bankrupcy and part 2 'Freddie' (
Amazon Amazon
) is the convoluted story of the court cases that followed and Freddie's further ventures into airline and other businesses.

I don't own stock in the publishing business, I'm just enthusiastic about these two titles and the enormous amount of work that Ania Grzesik and the late Greg Dix put into them.

Last edited by Jhieminga; 24th Aug 2022 at 08:13. Reason: Links don't want to work...
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Old 24th Aug 2022, 09:41
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Originally Posted by John Ty Isaf
A plan to fly Laker to Greece on the A300 in 1982 came to nothing due to their bankruptcy.
The first three A300s were delivered for the 1981 season. Freddie wanted to do Skytrain across Europe, from London to Amsterdam, Madrid, Rome etc with them (10 were ordered), but as ever the aircraft came before the licences, and they were deployed for the last year on holiday ITs instead. Two at Gatwick and one at Manchester. I think they were the only widebodies on holiday flight work that year.
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Old 24th Aug 2022, 11:40
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Originally Posted by Jhieminga
We've discussed this same set of books in another thread recently, I can only second your recommendation. The story of Freddie Laker is also covered in the 1980 book 'Fly me, I'm Freddie' which is available secondhand at prices at which you can't go wrong. It only covers his early years though. If you want the full story, part 1 'Laker'(https://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos...ttlevc10de-21/) covers everything up to the 1982 bankrupcy and part 2 'Freddie' (https://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos...ttlevc10de-21/) is the convoluted story of the court cases that followed and Freddie's further ventures into airline and other businesses.

I don't own stock in the publishing business, I'm just enthusiastic about these two titles and the enormous amount of work that Ania Grzesik and the late Greg Dix put into them.
I'm reading volume 1 at bedtime at the moment, fair whacks me out holding it up... vol 2 is no lightweight either...
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Old 24th Aug 2022, 11:47
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Originally Posted by WHBM
The first three A300s were delivered for the 1981 season. Freddie wanted to do Skytrain across Europe, from London to Amsterdam, Madrid, Rome etc with them (10 were ordered), but as ever the aircraft came before the licences, and they were deployed for the last year on holiday ITs instead. Two at Gatwick and one at Manchester. I think they were the only widebodies on holiday flight work that year.
Don't remember there being one full time at MAN? The fancy underfloor system made loading the cargo containers a b*gger compared to the more robust system on the DC-10 - mishappen baggage containers never stood a chance....
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Old 24th Aug 2022, 12:35
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Originally Posted by WHBM
I believe the Regency Class seat vendor was left with a large unpaid debt at the bankruptcy of the airline.

I don't know if Laker were around long enough to do charters to Orlando. Their other Skytrain destinations were in fact just roll ups of long standing charter destinations, originally affinity group going right back to the 1969 programme and 707s inherited from British Eagle at the latter's failure and later ABCs!
Laker went to MIA and also TPA from LGW MAN and PIK.

The UK-MCO Orlando boom really came about later on around 1988 >

Virgin 747's on charter flights at first, 2 a week for Virgin Holidays and Thomson Holidays sharing, plus the 757 ETOPS started with AMM AE and MON.
BY's 757 and then 767 ETOPS came a couple of years later.
Caledonian with the Tristars and BCAL Charter/Novair with the DC-10's.

Clapped out old ex PAA 747-100's were op by Lion Air/Orion Air/Tower Air flying for AIH and AE.
Lionair was created by Cargolux in 1988 and obtained several Pan American Boeing 747-121 aircraft, and flew them with high density seating of 492 -505 passengers.
Lionair won a major contract tour company Airtours, operating long haul Caribbean and Florida routes.
This was the start of an unusual arrangement with the use of various operating licences which the company needed to operate legally from the UK.
Both of the Boeing 747s were deployed in the UK for the Airtours flying programme. The main base of Lionair was Manchester International Airport but the company also operated long-haul flights out of London Stansted Airport. The company employed multinational flight deck crews and predominantly British and Irish cabin crew, some of whom came from the recently collapsed Highland Express Airways. Both aircraft had liveries of red, white and blue with the "winged Lionhead" logo on the tail fin.
When operating the Caribbean routes to Puerto Plata, Santo Domingo, Barbados and Antigua, the company adopted the name Caribbean Airways The National Airline of Barbados for one of its aircraft for licensing reasons. For similar reasons, when operating the Orlando, Florida route, the sister 747 used name of the US airline Orionair. This caused much confusion as some passengers thought they were flying with the British Charter airline Orion Airways of East Midlands.
Lionair began to experience a string of long delays due to aircraft technical issues, sometimes its Airtours holiday passengers stranded for days. In 1989, Airtours decided to terminate its long-haul flying programme with the company.
AE leased N751PA from Orion to fly to Bangkok, Acapulco, Orlando and Barbados from LGW and MAN, IIRC around 1988/89.
Then N602FF was leased from Tower Air.

I think ATA Tristars and some other US charter airlines with DC-8's etc also began Orlando flights around then.


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Old 24th Aug 2022, 14:29
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G-AVZZ (I believe) of International Caribbean
Flew in this on a Laker charter Akrotiri-LGW and return at Christmas 1974. Not my picture - no idea who owns copyright, sorry.
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Old 24th Aug 2022, 18:58
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I would have to check my log book to confirm dates, but one of my over-riding memories as a DC-10 first officer near the end was one of the last flights I did was when I checked in to go to JFK and found that someone had combined it with a MAN-JFK flight so we had to go to MAN first. We then found that we could not get direct to JFK from MAN with the load we had (DC-10-10) so had to fuelstop in Goose Bay. It was a very long day. I also remember that we had Griff Rhys Jones on the flight so if you're reading this, Griff - I am very sorry! I suspect that there was a plane full of people that swore they would never fly Laker again.


I also remember that we did a lot of charter work on the DC-10 - There and backs Tenerife, Alicante, Malaga, Tunisia (Monastir maybe?- can't remember) and others.
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Old 25th Aug 2022, 08:04
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Originally Posted by treadigraph
I'm reading volume 1 at bedtime at the moment, fair whacks me out holding it up... vol 2 is no lightweight either...
A story worth telling is a story worth telling well... in this case it took them 1200 pages! IIRC Ania explains how this came about in the preface to part 2. I remember having finished part 1 and wondering 'what happened next?'. Fortunately part 2 emerged in due course.


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Old 25th Aug 2022, 08:15
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Vol 1 is reawakening upper body muscles that at my age should probably remain dormant!
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Old 25th Aug 2022, 10:15
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I did was when I checked in to go to JFK and found that someone had combined it with a MAN-JFK flight so we had to go to MAN first.
One of those days when we'd get a call from the check-in supervisor saying do we know anything about a Laker JFK as they had pax turning up wanting to check in, but there was nothing in the system.

Cue a quick call to GK ops...
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Old 30th Aug 2022, 07:52
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I was only 6 in June 1981 when my family flew on a Laker DC10 from LGW to Gerona and back on a charter flight.

Can’t remember much about the service but do vividly remember the outbound flight. My mum was prone to travel sickness as well as migraines which often were at the extreme end and appeared like stokes. The reason for mentioning this was that the story went that we left LGW runway almost vertically which triggered both of the above. She spent the whole 2 hours throwing up in what appeared to be a near death experience! the crew were great looking after her. She spent the first few days of the holiday in bed which was always attributed to our Laker Skytrain experience.

The DC10 was pretty empty hence why I think we must have gone up so steeply. The return was also on a DC10 so having had 40 years to think about it and read forums like this the flights must have been just to keep the planes busy unless a more suitable sized 1-11 wasn’t available on either day (although as a standard 14 day holiday at the time this may be unlikely ie it was planned to be a DC10).

We had a massive stash of Laker sick bags as a result which lived in a kitchen draw until about a week before the airline went bust and my mum wishing she’d kept them as collectors Items!
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Old 30th Aug 2022, 08:23
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Originally Posted by GBYAJ
I was only 6 in June 1981 when my family flew on a Laker DC10 from LGW to Gerona and back on a charter flight.
By 1981 Laker had more widebodies than they had work for; a DC-10 on Gatwick to Gerona is a pretty profitless run at typical charter seat rates. Sure, if it could be fitted in, a transatlantic run to New York and back comes in at under 24 hours, and a morning hop to Gerona could give additional work, but this was when they also had the A300 newly in service as well, which likewise now had to be paid for. The services these had been ordered for had once again not been licenced, and they too fell back onto IT work which Laker already had the aircraft for.

Mitsui their lessors of the DC-10s were pretty hard on lease payments to the day, which by all accounts were somewhat high anyway, and one gets the impression that by 1981 the operation was wholly concentrated on a financial juggling act, with aviation practicalities coming second.
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Old 30th Aug 2022, 09:17
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In my view, Freddie Laker often purchased airframes before figuring out what to do with them. A lot of times it worked, but by 1981 he had staked his hopes on several long-range route applications (Globetrain) and an ambitious plan for several European Skytrain routes. As we now know, it didn't work out.
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Old 30th Aug 2022, 11:16
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I think Freddie had certainly worked out in his own mind what to do with the aircraft. The trouble was, nobody else was yet in agreement.
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Old 30th Aug 2022, 12:04
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Originally Posted by WHBM
We've had discussions about various onetime holiday airlines, but anything Laker seems to only discuss Skytrain. However they were much more than that, being a pioneer One-Eleven IT operator, plus 707s and, later DC-10s, used on Mediterranean flights, transatlantic ABCs before Skytrain, and such like. They bought up tour operators, and I think had a half-share in Gatwick Handling. Right at the beginning they had a couple of Bristol Britannia 100s, which seem to have been hardly used, and even bought the prototype VC-10, which I don't think was ever painted or operated under their own name, seemingly always leased out (but was it with Laker crews ?).

Any recollections ? Anyone ever get a flight on the A300 ?
yes flew on G-BIMC from LGW to Palma a few months before they folded. Was allowed to stay on the flight deck for landing too. Return trip was on DC10 G- AZZC.
Also had a day trip to Alicante on G-AVBW, November 1979 (was only 13) jump seat both ways too

Last edited by paulc; 30th Aug 2022 at 12:20.
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Old 2nd Sep 2022, 19:36
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Progressing steadily through Vol II of the book... couple of familiar names, Malcolm Fillmore who I recognise from my Air Britain membership days, didn't know he was an accountant and part of the liquidation (?) team dealing with Laker's insolvency. The other is Judge Michael Mustill who seemed to have put Laker supporter's backs up in favour of the opposition during one of the many court hearings - the name rings a bell as I seem to recall he also erred towards the British & Commonwealth Shipping side during some of their litigation with the Tiger Club over their Redhill Aerodrome lease. Makes you wonder...

Mentioned the books to my aunt while visiting yesterday and she told me that she and my uncle were caught by Laker's collapse while they were on a Spanish island, much to my aunt's great distress - she worries about not having anything to worry about. My uncle was utterly sanguine, he had a credit card, they'd simply buy tickets on another airline - in the event they were flown home under the usual ATOL protection...
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Old 18th Sep 2022, 16:25
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Found something that might amuse you... http://www.vc10.net/Files/Laker_A300.pdf
Page 1 and 3 are slightly wider than A4 but if you print the third page on A4, preferably sturdy paper, you can start building your own Laker A300.
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