Hooters Air Grounds Three Flights

GARY -- Hooters Air is suspending its flights between Gary and airports in Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Columbus, Ohio at least until March.

Despite the Gary/Chicago International Airport's report that there was "phenomenal" demand for the Las Vegas service, it has been suspended as of Monday's flight. The last flight to Myrtle Beach until March was Sunday. The Columbus service has been eliminated at the airport's request, said Paul Karas, the Gary/Chicago International Airport administrator.

The twice-weekly service between Gary and St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport is continuing uninterrupted, Karas said. Plus Hooters is considering initiating service between Gary and Atlanta in March.

Hooters corporate spokesman Mark Peterson did not return calls for comment. A reservationist for the airline said the suspension of the Las Vegas service is due to the "high cost of fuel and low participation."

Karas said Hooters told the airport about the service changes last week.

"We asked them to send a press release, and they just gave us a French shrug," said Karas.

The airport is taking two steps forward and one backward, he said.

"We're breathing a sigh of relief," he said. "We feel fortunate because if you look at (Greater) Rockford Airport. They've lost three airlines in two months: Transmeridian, Hooters and Northwest."

Hooters announced Friday is was pulling all operations from the northern Illinois facility blaming increased costs and the airport authority's decision to help finance a competitor's operation.

The airline decided to suspend the flights at Gary because of high fuel costs, Karas said. The airline told Gary officials it will use those aircraft for charter service, which guarantees it a "certain amount of revenue," he said.

"They'll be back, and we'll have another airline or two here," Karas said.

The airline, which touts extra passenger leg room as well as its Hooter girls decked in skimpy shorts and tight tank tops, began operations between its home base in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Gary on June 10, 2004. It began Gary to St. Petersburg/Clearwater service in October.

Passengers ticketed on suspended flight will receive full refunds from the airline, Karas said.

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