Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hooters Air ends service

Rickenbacker Airport now has no passenger service.

via The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Oh. - Hooters Air, which featured female attendants in orange short-shorts and tight T-shirts, will be grounded beginning next month, except for private charters out of Winston-Salem, N.C.

Rumors of the airline’s demise in central Ohio have been persistent since Hooters halted flights from Rickenbacker Airport to Myrtle Beach, S.C., St. Petersburg, Fla., and Gary, Ind., in recent months.

Those rumors became official yesterday when Bob Brooks, chairman of the Hooters restaurant chain, and airline President Mark Peterson told The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News that the company will focus on charters for tour groups and sports teams.

The news leaves Rickenbacker with no passenger service, an area the airport has been trying to develop in recent years.

"The flying industry is in a terrible mess. . . . I’ve got a fair amount of money, but I don’t have enough to fix this animal," Brooks told the newspaper. "Now I think the best thing we can do is basically put it to bed, at least for right now, until the industry changes."

Hooters Air, which last summer served 15 destinations and offered nonstop flights to the Bahamas, has been suspending and canceling flights since Christmas. Its Web site shows it as having three Boeing aircraft.

Industry analysts have said problems for the Myrtle Beachbased airline range from a highly competitive low-fare airline industry to rising fuel prices.

A woman who answered the phone at the airline’s Myrtle Beach office said neither Brooks nor Peterson would give in- terviews. A woman who answered the airline’s customerservice line said Hooters will take reservations until April 17. Neither would give her name.

Peterson told the newspaper that some of the roughly 350 employees in Winston-Salem will be laid off, but he didn’t say how many.

Brooks bought Pace Airlines in 2002 and launched its scheduled flights from Myrtle Beach to Atlanta on March 6, 2003. Dispatch reporter Paul Wilson contributed to this story.

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