Frank Borman has nothing on Freddie Laker. Laker, too, has been unloading luggage onto planes.
Because of an "industrial dispute" with baggage handlers - the second concurrent strike affecting Britain's air operations - Laker, chairman of Laker Airways, could be found earlier this week with other Laker personnel loading luggage onto the DC-10 bound for New York.
The public's reception of Laker's new low-cost, no-reservations transatlantic air service, starting on its fifth week, couldn't please Laker more.
"We're delighted. It's beyond our wildest dream," he said. "Within our experience, we've never had a service that went so well from the beginning.
"We get up each morning and pray to God that the bubble won't burst."
In the first four weeks of service, Laker's Skytrain air passenger service carried 15,079 passengers between New York and London, an average of about 538 travelers a day for a whopping 78 per cent load factor.
Each day, Laker sells 345 tickets to London from New York for $135 on a first-come, first-served basis, and 345 from London to New York for 59 pounds (about $103.)
Laker has taken in $1.8 million in ticket sales. On a fully allocated basis - taking into account passenger handling costs, landing charges insurance, fuel, interest and other operating expenses - his profit was $224,294, Laker said in an interview.
Seven of the first 56 flights - one each day in each direction - have been sold out. Just about 500 more people have traveled to New York from here than from New York to London. Americans made up 42.8 per cent of the total passengers. British passport holders made up 31.2 per cent, Canadians 5 per cent, and the other 21 per cent was made up of travelers holding the passports of 72 different countries.
Laker seems undaunted about the winter travel period, which is usually bleak, or that a possible economic downturn here, in the U.S. or elsewhere would hurt his new service.
"Even with a disaster in the economy, those who had to fly would trade downward," he said. "So it's reasonable to assume that the airline in the business with the lowest fare would survive."
Americans especially, he said, know how to "make the buck go further" than anyone else and will use his service if there is a crunch.
Laker determined at the beginning of his service that he would break even when the two planes a day carry a total of 447 passengers, or are slightly less than 65 per cent filled. He makes money with each additional passenger.'
He is also unworried about the plans of Jetsave, a British charter operator, to offer a London-New York round-trip fare of 95 pounds - in the range of $170 - for certain flights booked between 45 and 47 days before departure, beginning next April. Noting that he was the largest charter carrier between the U.S. and U.K., Laker more than hinted that he would meet the Jetsave fare.
"We haven't announced our fares for 1978 yet," he pointed out. "I wouldn't assume that Jetsave will be the lowest."
His confidence in the future of his operations - scheduled and charter - was confirmed when he placed an order last week for two new DC-10s to be delivered at the end of next year.
He said his only "problem" is that he hasn't gotten across to all the public that prospective travelers interested in flying across the Atlantic at the new lower fares should try Laker before they seek the standby fares of his competitors - primarily Trans World Airlines, Pan American World Airways and British Airways.
"They have strict capacity limitations. They can only sell a limited number of empty seats every day," he said.
"We have 345 empty seats every day."
(The six carriers operating between New York and London share a maximum of 2,900 seats in each direction each week.)
"People should call or stop at the Laker Center in Queens to see if we have seats before they go 'round to all the other terminals," he advertises.
Getting a ticket on the daily flight to New York from here will become very easy Friday when Laker begins selling tickets at Victoria Station, a major intown train, bus, airline and subway center. Now travelers have to go to Gatwick Airport to buy a ticket.
Laker is also accepting credit cards, and has made his baggage conform to the recently adopted two-piece system in international travel.
His current expansion plans include low-cost flights to Australia and Canada from here.
A second flight between London and New York in each director is to begin April 1.