SCF and the bad joke beat: or, so narrow an airline niche

It’s the stuff that journalists love, and so do lager louts, college boys, and wiseacres around the world, but Hooters Air may be about to go bust. (Ho ho.) The carrier, related to the restaurant chain of the same name, is premised on the appeal of the SCF, or scantily clad female, as its young woman waiters and staff, uniformed in short shorts and tight tee shirts, are called by more demure writers. These SCFs are a trademark of the restaurant chain, which is known for such menu items as beer, lager, and stout as well as chicken wings and (ha-ha, are you ready) breasts and thighs. The eatery began the airline as a public charter in 2003, offering flights to and from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a coastal resort. The tiny airline has attracted inflated publicity since its inaugural flight between Myrtle Beach and Atlanta Hartsfield/Jackson. On each flight, two ‘Hooters Girls’ dressed in the same skimpy outfits as their restaurant counterparts serve food and play trivia games with passengers; real FAA-certified flight attendants also man, or staff, the planes. Boarding passes look like little restaurant menus.

But the business runs on margins that are as skimpy as those tank tops and has expenses that have to be watched as closely as tight-tights. (Hah, hah.) With fuel costs going up and the solely discretionary market watching pennies as if they were posteriors, Hooters Air ran into trouble. It has ended most of its flights and left unpaid bills at secondary airports such as the Lehigh Valley airport in Pennsylvania. Hooters Air is owned by Robert Brooks, chairman of Atlanta-based Hooters of America, which bought all trademark and licensing rights from the restaurant’s original owners. Brooks has told South Carolina media outlets that if he shuts the airline, he could write off some of its losses as a marketing expense for the nearly 400 Hooters his company owns or franchises worldwide. Washington-based consultant George Hamlin says the Hooters downfall shows the problem of basing an airline’s marketing on so narrow a niche: “It’s easy to make money targeting the leisure market if you’re a restaurant, but not if you’re an airline. Maybe they should have stayed in the kitchen”. Send your jokes and puns to this spot.

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