December 25, 1978 12:00 PM

We want to convince people that no frills doesn’t mean we haven’t got seats in the airplane,” says Sir Freddie Laker. “Our movies are the same. Our plastic food is just as good as anyone else’s plastic food.”

The public apparently believes. Laker’s no-reservation, low-fare Skytrain between London and New York reaped a $5 million profit in its first year. “That’s double what we expected,” he exclaims. “I’m thrilled to bits.”

This fall Skytrain extended its reach to Los Angeles, a route that won’t be in the black until Easter, Laker concedes. He adds optimistically, “California has a big student population.”

Freddie has more than a balance sheet to show for his success (which triggered a low-fare revolution in U.S. air travel). In June Queen Elizabeth officially bestowed knighthood upon him. After 30 years of jousting with the British government and entrenched aviation interests, the normally voluble Laker was nonplussed by the honor. “The last thing you expect is to be told you’re a good lad,” he marveled. “You expect a kick in the arse.”

A child of poverty who began as a floor sweep and teaboy, the 56-year-old, thrice-married millionaire is enjoying the good life. It includes a yacht, an estate and a horse-breeding farm. Yet he won’t be addressed as “Sir Frederick.” “I’ve been called Freddie all my life, and I’m not changing it to something highfalutin.” The same could be said for the way he runs Skytrain. “We fly the only genuine one-class airplane,” he boasts. “You’re not a peasant with Laker.”

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