Sad news for anyone who enjoys air travel or has ever thought a stripper was hitting on him: after three short years flying the friendly skies, Hooters Airlines is discontinuing public service. (Sports teams and "tour groups" can still book flights, however.) Anyway, I played through my pain and decided to do some research on defunct discount carriers. I found the amazing story of the rise and fall of Sir Freddie Laker, which I present to you now.
In 1977, Freddie, who taught himself how to fly a four-engine aircraft three decades earlier, started Laker Skytrain. It was the first low-cost carrier there ever was, and when I say low-cost, I'm not kidding: around $200 New York-to-London roundtrip. You can find pictures of his dream machines here.
Things were going really well for Freddie - he was knighted, Margaret Thatcher applauded his work for the common man, The Police toured the States in one of his planes - until 1982, when he was forced out of business (illegally, it turns out) by the bigger airlines and by some poor business decisions. Either way, he was the inspiration for all low-cost carries, from the successful (Southwest, Ryanair) to the not-so-successful (Hooters Airlines).
What's Sir Freddie doing now? Well, he died in February. But the last line of his obit in The Economist (no link...sorry!) says it all: "Nonetheless, the man on the 9.30 from Stansted to Palma, crushed in a middle seat between crying children and with a home-made sandwich as his sustenance, should raise a plastic cup to freedom and to Freddie." Here, here!