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Dec 21, 2002
Hooters Air takes off with waitresses in hot pants
Thursday March 6, 3:52 pm ET
By Paul Simao
ATLANTA, March 6 (Reuters) - If any of the passengers who boarded an aging Hooters Air 737 in Atlanta on Thursday had a fear of flying, none showed it.
Perhaps it was the thought of attractive young women in hot pants and tank tops that set their minds at ease.

In a throwback to an era when airlines sought to titillate as well as transport their male clientele, Hooters Air joined the growing ranks of low-cost U.S. airlines on Thursday with the start of scheduled service between Atlanta and the resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Its approach is decidedly less stuffy than the no-frills image of, say, JetBlue Airways Corp. (NasdaqNM:JBLU - News), the New York-based low-cost airline.
Hooters Air, whose owner Robert Brooks also is chairman of the Hooters of America restaurant chain famous for its spicy chicken wings and scantily clad waitresses, believes that droves of mostly male golfers and sportsmen will pay good money to rub shoulders with its beauties at 30,000 feet.
Two Hooters Girls in skimpy orange-and-white outfits will help serve snacks and drinks to passengers.
A lot of people today don''t have a lot to smile about, Brooks said during a ceremony celebrating its inaugural flight at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.
We want to transcend that, said Brooks, who added that the airline was more than a mere marketing tool for Hooters'' Atlanta-based chain of more than 300 restaurants in 43 states and 10 countries. The privately held restaurant chain celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Hooters Air admittedly is starting off small. It will fly one retrofitted plane between Atlanta and Myrtle Beach for the next two weeks. A second route from Newark, New Jersey, to Myrtle Beach via Atlanta will be added on March 20.
The airline hopes to make up in comfort what it lacks in scope. Its orange-and-white jets, operated by Pace Airlines of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, have been retrofitted with 112 leather seats. Hooters Air claims the seats provide more leg room than those of its competitors.
Fares are in line with other airlines flying between Atlanta and Myrtle Beach and do not change regardless of when they are purchased, which the airline hopes will draw last- minute golfers with an urge to play the links in Myrtle Beach.
One-way fare between Atlanta and Myrtle Beach is about $130 per person.
Hooters already has four restaurants serving the South Carolina golfing mecca of Myrtle Beach.
But airline analysts say that Hooters Air faces a daunting challenge making a go of it in the financially ailing industry.
Major U.S. airlines have lost billions of dollars since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States threw the industry into an unprecedented financial crisis. Wall Street estimates the major U.S. carriers lost between $8 billion and $10 billion in 2002.
Henry Harteveldt, an airline analyst for Forrester Research in San Francisco, described Hooters Air as a novelty idea that would not give established carriers such Delta Air Lines, which operates on the same route, anything to worry about.
I expect Hooters Air to bounce along until they go bust, Harteveldt said. They will never be a major factor in the scheduled market. It is proof that there is no shortage of stupid ideas in the airline business.
Harteveldt said it would make more sense for Hooters to concentrate on the charter and corporate shuttle market, rather than try to compete on regularly scheduled routes.
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