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 $US40 million loss. But in the short time that Hooters Air existed, it made a major economic impact on one city in particular – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – 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 – 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 dispelled some common misperceptions about what it was like to fly it. Hooters declined to comment for this story. Following is a transcript of the video.Hooters Air puts the fun back into flying!Business Insider: Wait a minute. Hooters Girls on every flight.BI: Hooters had an airline?All leather seats with extra leg room. Call 888-FLY-HOOT!BI: You might not have known about Hooters Air because it didn’t last long. It started in 2003, and initially, the airline was successful. But it shut down just 3 years later.Nick Mantis: We’re here at the Gary/Chicago International Airport where Hooters Air is about to make their maiden flight to Myrtle Beach.BI: Based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, it offered low-price, direct flights to more than 15 destinations in the US. Airfares were a flat rate of $US129 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 see on the inside.BI: Hooters was founded by six businessmen 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.Kate Taylor: It was the first “breastaurant” chain, so basically they pioneered the idea that they were going to have all their waiters wear 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.Taylor: From the 80s until the early 2000s, it was a very successful kind of growing business. BI: By 2003, Hooters was flush 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 aeroplanes with the company logo… and Hooters Air took off.Nick Mantis: What would you tell people watching the show about Hooters Air?Hooters Girl: You should definitely do it. It’s an experience like no other.Nick Mantis: What about yourself?Hooters Girl 2: It’s gonna be the most exciting time of your life!Former Hooters Air pilot: I’m probably one of the few pilots that can say I actually went to pilot heaven.BI: This is the voice of a former Hooters Air pilot. He asked to remain anonymous.Former Hooters Air pilot: There was a lot of intrigue about this airline, not because of what was happening on the inside, but more so what people perceived from the outside.Hooters Girl: It’s gonna be a nice change of pace from the restaurant. Instead of serving food and picking up trash we get to just basically entertain and ask trivia questions and all that.BI: A common misperception about Hooters Air was that the flight attendants on the flights were Hooters girls. Not exactly. In addition to the two Hooters girls, there were three FAA-certified flight attendants on every flight.Sara Nitz: The flight attendants are the ones who serve all the food and the drinks, per usual. I had a professional uniform. I had a navy blue dress with like a little orange scarf. Very professional. It had the little owl embroidered on it.Kimberly Cerimele: We just did the safety procedures and stuff like that. Then we had two Hooters girls from different restaurants from the area that would do the trivia on the plane. But they had no training whatsoever. They were just there just for passenger fun.Nick Mantis: What all is it gonna include? You guys are gonna be up there serving customers?Hooters Girl: No wings! But great food. We got some soft pretzels and, like, pigs in a blanket, and maybe some… fruit!Nitz: 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.BI: Were there ever any incidents that you witnessed, of harassment or customers getting a little too inebrieted?Cerimele: I never saw any kind of harassment. There was definitely flirtiness. With any flight, you’re gonna come across people that have drank too much, but nothing bad. It was fun. We did our job right. It was just – very happy memories.Fares from $US99. Convenient morning departures and evening returns.BI: Hooters Air helped out smaller airports like the one in Gary, Indiana – just 25 miles southeast of Chicago.Paul Karas: It’s good news. More airline service. More airline activity. More economic development. More jobs. More people spending money in Northwest Indiana and southern Chicagoland. So it’s very good news.BI: And it was an economic boon to one city in particular: Myrtle Beach, where the airline was officially headquartered.Brad Dean: In its hey Hooters Air was bringing between 3,000 and 5,000 a week into the Myrtle Beach area.2:40 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.BI: 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 $US40 million loss.Henry Harteveldt: It was compounded by a couple of factors. They started the airline as the airline industry was recovering from the 9/11 attacks. People were scared of getting on aeroplanes. There was growing low-fare competition in the market as Southwest and other airlines in the market had begun to expand. And jet fuel prices were trending upwards. So it just wasn’t an economically viable business.BI: Hooters chairman Bob Brooks passed away in 2006, the same year that Hooters Air shut down.Brad Dean: There are people at work and people visiting 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.BI: Despite the failure of Hooters Air, the Hooters brand continued to thrive.Kate Taylor: They have opened up hundreds of locations in the US and outside of the US. They’re more than a $US250 million business at this point. And they kind of took over the US and then the world.Former Hooters Air pilot: Oftentimes going into cities, we’d be on an approach and we’d hear the air traffic controller say, “Do you have the Hooters aeroplane in sight and if you do, follow that aircraft.” Other pilots would often say ‘yeah, you mean the aeroplane with the big hooters? We have it in sight.”
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