Long-haul low-cost fore­run­ners

Business Traveller - - AIRLINES - Alex McWhirter

Back in 1977, Fred­die Laker’s Sky­train broke the transat­lantic car­tel of British Air­ways, Pan Am and TWA by ush­er­ing in a low-fares rev­o­lu­tion. One-way tick­ets from Gatwick to New York JFK cost £59 (around £400 in to­day’s money) on a first­come, first-served ba­sis. At the time, it wasn’t un­com­mon for peo­ple to travel from other parts of the UK to Lon­don on night trains and buses so they could ob­tain a good place in the queue at Vic­to­ria sta­tion, as tick­ets were only sold there or at Gatwick Air­port.

Sky­train was fol­lowed a few years later by US low-cost car­rier Peo­ple Ex­press – I once bought a Gatwick-New York Ne­wark re­turn flight for £130; bear in mind that taxes and charges in those days were just a few dol­lars.

Back then, it was thought that low transat­lantic fares were here to stay. But we were wrong. Sky­train and Peo­ple Ex­press got their sums wrong. Both failed for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, one of which was preda­tory pric­ing by ri­vals. For decades there­after, cheap fares were only avail­able if you trav­elled out of sea­son and met re­stric­tions.

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