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Talk of the bay

Signature items skip Hooters Air's first flights

Published May 16, 2005

No, that wasn't real Hooters grub on the first local flights of Hooters Air last week. And the Hooters girls weren't from the restaurant, either.

Passengers from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport to Allentown, Pa., got turkey, ham and cheese sandwiches on a hamburger bun, with chips and a pack of cookies.

The airline usually serves food that makes "a nod to the Hooters menu," said Mike McNeil, vice president of marketing for Hooters of America, such as vegetables with Naturaly Fresh dressing, a brand used in the restaurants and owned by Hooters chairman Robert Brooks. That kind of food eventually will make its way onto the local flights, he said.

Of course, Hooters Air would love to serve chicken wings, the restaurant chain's signature dish.

But deep fryers present obvious challenges at 30,000 feet. The airline hopes an unaffiliated company, Hooters Foods, can develop a breaded frozen wing that can be cooked in a airliner's convection oven and taste like the restaurant version, McNeil said.

Hooters Air also had to improvise on the in-flight entertainment. The airline staffs every flight with two Hooters girls from restaurants in cities where the flights originate, typically the hub in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

But the closest Hooters to Allentown is some 55 miles away, in Philadelphia. The airline hired two women from the Allentown area this month and made them instant Hooters girls. They will be authenticated later.

"Those girls will go to Myrtle Beach and go through the restaurants," McNeil said.

[Last modified May 14, 2005, 00:56:02]

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