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2006-03-30 16:48:27

Airline Stops Scheduled Flights To Nassau

Airline will be grounded beginning next month except for private charters out of Winston-Salem, N.C.

Hooters Air, which featured scantily clad women in orange short-shorts and tight T-shirts on flights, will be grounded beginning next month except for private charters out of Winston-Salem, N.C. - Bob Brooks, the airline's founder, and president Mark Peterson said Hooters Air told The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News for a story Wednesday that the company will focus on charters for tour groups and sports teams.

"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 including nonstop flights to Nassau, Bahamas, has been suspending and canceling flights since the Christmas holidays. Airline industry analysts have said problems for the Myrtle Beach-based 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 interviews and referred The Associated Press to The Sun News article. A woman who answered the airline's customer service line said Hooters would take reservations until April 17. Neither woman 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.

For Myrtle Beach, the airline's closing means a loss of about five jobs and but about 1,000 visitors a week that flew in on Hooters Air.

"There is no good news to reduction of air service, particularly direct flights," said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "In the case of Hooters, there's a double whammy. Fewer flights mean fewer people coming to the destination."

Brooks -- chairman of the international restaurant chain known for its chicken wings and its female servers -- bought Pace Airlines in 2002 and launched its first scheduled flights from Myrtle Beach to Atlanta on March 6, 2003.

 
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