The Rise And Fall Of Hooters Air

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You might not remember it, but at one point Hooters had an airline. Hooters Air launched in 2003, but closed about three years later. The company cited a number of reasons for the airline's failure, including a $40 million loss. But in the short time that Hooters Air existed, it made a major economic impact on one city in particular β€” Myrtle Beach, South Carolina β€” that's where the airline was headquartered, and where it brought thousands of tourists every week.
We talked to people who worked for Hooters Air β€” flight attendants and one pilot (who asked to remain anonymous). They told us what it was really like to work for the airline (which featured two Hooters Girls on every flight) and dispelledΒ some common misperceptions about what it was like to fly it. Hooters declined to comment for this story.
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- [announcer] hooters air. puts the fun back into flying. (record scratching). - [narrator] wait a minute. - [announcer] hooters. girls on every flight. - [narrator] hooters had an airline . - [announcer] all leather. seats with extra leg room. call 1-888-fly-hoot. - [narrator] you might not. have known about hooters air. because it didn't last long. - fly hooters air!. - there you go. - [narrator] it started in 2003,. and initially the airline was successful,. but it shut down just three years later. - we're at the gary chicago. international airport. where hooters air is about. to make their maiden flight. to myrtle beach. - [narrator] based in myrtle. beach, south carolina,. it offered low-price direct flights. to more than 15 destinations in the u. s. air fares were a flat rate. of $129 dollars each way. so why did hooters. think it was a good idea. to start an airline, and why did it fail . - if you like what you. see here on the outside,. you're gonna love what. you'll see on the inside. - [narrator] hooters was. founded by six business men. in clearwater, florida in 1983. a year later, an atlanta-based. group led by bob brooks. saw the company's potential. and bought it outright. - it was the first "breastaurant" chain. so basically they pioneered the idea that. they're going to have all their. waiters where short shorts. and really tight tank tops. - do you know why our beer. is so cold here at hooters . because we keep it in the refrigerator. - from kind of the '80s. until the early 2000s. it was a very successful. kind of growing business. - [narrator] by 2003,. hooters was flushed with cash. and bob brooks wanted to expand the brand,. so he bought a small north. carolina-based charter airline. called pace airlines. he repainted the airplanes. with the company logo. and hooters air took off. - what would you tell people. out there watching the show. about flying hooters air . - you should definitely do it. it's an experience like no other. - how about yourself . - it's gonna be the most. exciting time of your life. - [pilot] i'm probably one. of the few pilots who can say. i actually went to "pilot heaven. ". - [narrator] this is the voice. of a former hooters air pilot. he asked to remain anonymous. - there was a lot of. intrigue about this airline. not because of necessarily. what was going on on the inside. but more so what people. perceived from the outside. - it's gonna be a nice. change from the restaurant. instead of serving food and all that stuff. and picking up trash, we get. to just basically entertain,. ask trivia questions and all that. - [narrator] a common. misconception about hooters air. was that the flight. attendants on the flights. were hooters girls. not exactly. in addition to the two. hooters girls on every flight,. there were three faa-certified. flight attendants. - [flight attendant] the flight. attendants are the ones who. serve all the food and. the drinks, per usual. i had a professional uniform. i had like a navy blue dress. you know, it was very professional. it had the little owl. embroidered emblem on it. - [flight attendant] we just. did the safety procedures. and stuff like that. and then we had two hooters girls. from different restaurants in the area. but they had no training whatsoever. they were just there. just for passenger fun. - what is it all gonna include . you guys are gonna be up. there serving customers . - no wings. - no wings. - but great food. - but great food. - yeah, we got some soft pretzels. and we got some like pigs in a blanket. and you know, maybe some . fruit, you know. - [flight attendant] the two hooters girls. would get up during the. flight and do trivia. or little games or sing a song. i think they just sat in. their seats the whole time. until it was their five minutes. to get up, and that was it. the rest of the time us. flight attendants are working. - [interviewer] were. there ever any incidents. that you witnessed of harassment. or customers getting a. little too inebriated . - [flight attendant] i never. saw any kind of harassment. there was definitely flirtiness. any flight, you're always. gonna come across some people. that have drank too much, but nothing bad. it was fun, we did our job right. it was just very happy memories. - [announcer] fares from $99. convenient morning departures. and evening returns. - [narrator] hooters air. helped out smaller airports. like the one in gary, indiana,. just 25 miles southeast of chicago. - it's good news, more airline. service, more activity,. more economic development, more jobs,. more people spending money. in northwest indiana and . - good news. - southern chicago, and so. it's very good news, yeah. - [narrator] and it was. a major economic boon. to one city in particular: myrtle beach. - in its heyday hooters air. was bringing between 3, . and 5,000 people a week. into the myrtle beach area. hooters air was more than just an airline. it was a huge philanthropic contribution. to the myrtle beach area by mr. brooks,. who had a vision that. the myrtle beach area. could grow and expand and evolve. as a tourism destination. and a business community. - [narrator] hooters air. was big for myrtle beach. but it wasn't enough to keep it airborne,. so hooters shut it down in. 2006, citing a $40 million loss. - it was compounded by. a couple of factors. they started the airline. still as the airline industry. was recovering from the 9/11 attacks. people were still scared. of getting on airplanes. there was growing low-fare. competition in the market. as southwest and other. airlines had begun to expand. and jet fuel prices were trending upward. so it just wasn't an. economically viable business. - [narrator] hooters chairman. bob brooks passed away. in 2006, the same year. that hooters air shut down. - there are people at. work and people enjoying. the myrtle beach area. that might never have had. the opportunity to do so if. it weren't for bob brooks,. so we remain very grateful. for his investment. in his airline and our community. - [narrator] despite the. failure of hooters air,. the hooters brand continue to thrive. - they've opened hundreds. of locations in the u. s. and outside of the u. s. they are more than a. $250 million business,. basically, at this point, and they kind of. took over the u. s. and then the world. - [pilot] often times, going into cities,. we'd be on an approach and. we'd hear the air traffic controller say,. "do you have the hooters. airplane in sight . "and if you do, follow that aircraft. ". well, other pilots would. often say things like,. "you mean the airplane. with the big hooters . "we have it in sight. ". so, um . (chuckles). .
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