26 September 1977: Freddie Laker and the inaugral Skytrain flight | Uncredited, Press Association | 14070
In 1977, after a long legal process involving the aviation authorities in the UK and America, the Civil Aviation Authority approved an application by aviation tourism pioneer Sir Freddie Laker to commence a cut price, walk-on walk-off service between the UK and New York, to be called “Skytrain”.
Skytrain took to the air on 26 September 1977 when the inaugural flight departed London Gatwick for New York JFK with 272 passengers on a 345-seat McDonnell Douglas DC-10 widebodied aircraft. The fares charged at the time were £59 one-way from London and $135 one-way from New York.
The attractive fares, and the convenience of the service, made the trip to New York possible for many gay men in the UK and the service was widely used.
Sadly an unrecorded number of the Skytrain customers contacted HIV in New York and the service became known as “Deathtrain”.
Skytrain came to an end the day the airline went spectacularly bankrupt on 5 February 1982, with debts of £264 million in what was termed the biggest corporate failure in Britain at the time.
Sir Freddie Laker died on 9 February 2006.