Hooters Adds More Direct Flights to Las Vegas

Hooters Air, the Myrtle Beach-based airline that brings chicken wings to mind and carries two Hooters waitresses on every flight, announced Friday it will begin nonstop flights from Myrtle Beach to Las Vegas starting June 9.

Hooters began flying between Rockford, Ill., and Las Vegas in February, and officials said their hope was to create a nonstop Myrtle Beach-to-Las Vegas route.

Hooters will open its first casino hotel in Las Vegas in 2006.

Nonstop flights from Myrtle Beach to Las Vegas will operate on Thursdays, with return flights on Sundays. Fares will start at $149 each way.

Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said there has been a buzz about the possibility of the Las Vegas route for a while.

"That may be one of the Hooters routes equally traveled leaving the market as well as into the market," Dean said, adding that the route will bring more passengers to Myrtle Beach International Airport from nearby cities.

"I can envision people from Charleston and Florence and perhaps even the Upstate willing to drive a few hours to catch an affordable flight with direct service to Las Vegas," he said.

The route will be the only nonstop flight from Myrtle Beach going west of the Mississippi.

"It's going to open up the Myrtle Beach market to people who couldn't have gotten here easily and affordably," Dean said.

Travel agent Krissi McLendon of Thomas Hogan Travel said her clients also have been asking about the route.

"Our clients are thrilled," McLendon said. "We have people that call constantly that want to get to Vegas."

Las Vegas is the 12th destination for Hooters Air, the airline founded two years ago by Loris native Bob Brooks, who made his fortune with Atlanta-based Naturally Fresh Foods and later bought the Hooters restaurant chain.

Brooks has said he always was fascinated by the airline industry and started the airline with a twofold purpose: to bring more air service to Myrtle Beach and to market his Hooters restaurants.

Mickey McCamish, president of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, said the golf marketing company does several West Coast golf shows and will have a golf show in Las Vegas in July.

"We'll be promoting the airline," McCamish said. "The interest is there."

Hooters Air could lend a hand to the Grand Strand's party image.

"Las Vegas and Myrtle Beach are sort of like distant cousins with distinctly different paths and interest," Dean said, "but very dependent on one major economy, and that is tourism."