British business maverick Sir Freddie Laker, who built an airline empire on low-cost international travel only to see it collapse in ruins, has died in Miami, a family source said.

The source, a business partner of Laker's son who asked not to be identified by name, said the 83-year-old Laker died early on Thursday of undisclosed causes.

In the 1970s, Laker Airways' cut-price Skytrain service from Britain to the United States opened new vistas for millions of tourists who had previously regarded air travel as a preserve of the rich.

Skytrain, which opened in 1977 offering a one-way fare of $100 between London and New York, sparked a price war as major airlines rushed to follow its lead, many of them going into the red as a result.

In the five years before its eventual collapse, Laker Airways carried over three million passengers on its fleet of 20 aircraft and rose from 29th place to fifth place in the Atlantic air travel rankings.

Laker's success and fighting spirit of free enterprise — he advertised the venture himself on television and posters — won him the admiration of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

But in February 1982, supported only by its bankers, Sir Freddie's Laker Airways finally folded after it became burdened with millions of dollars in debt.