A couple of years ago, Robert H. Brooks, chairman of the Hooters of America restaurant chain, purchased the Winston-Salem-based Pace Airlines. A new airline – named “Hooters Air” – was born, despite pleas from around the world for more creative names for the company, such as “United Areolalines,” “Northchest,” or “Pan Mamm.” Now, Hooters Air has announced that they are expanding their service to new markets. We’ve all heard that “sex sells,” and now it’s a traveling salesman. Will Hooters Air experience continued growth?
According to the company’s website, Hooters Air, the only airline on which you pray for heavy turbulence, is expanding their list of routes to include Las Vegas, Nev., Allentown, Pa., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
In a business fraught with budget cuts, layoffs and bankruptcies, why is Hooters Air expanding, while most other airlines are shrinking and being eliminated? Brooks is following the success of countless companies that have made fortunes using sex to sell, which, of course, can’t be done without the help of people who use sex to buy. Brooks simply created a Hooters at 30,000 feet. No boring in-flight movies. No male flight attendants who won’t stop talking about Cher’s new album, and no more of the biggest cup on board being the one containing your coffee. Just good old, testosterone driven, 500-mph fun, where all seats come with a first-class view and, if need be, your stewardess can be used as a flotation device.
On Dec, 17, 1903, Orville Wright got on a powered flying machine, took off into a 27-mph wind, stayed aloft for 12 seconds, and flew straight into the history books. The Wright Brothers historic first flight has led to transcontinental crossings, the breaking of the sound barrier, earth orbits, manned moon landings and beyond.
Through these achievements, all of which are offspring of the event that took place in Kitty Hawk, N.C., over a hundred years ago, the aerodynamic principles of flight have remained the same. The only real differences between the “Wright Flyer” and a Boeing 767 are enclosure, speed and, of course, flight attendants. If you put even the Wright Brothers themselves on a 767 today, would they be more fascinated to see what’s become of their invention, or by the pleasing woman in a tank top pouring their rum & coke? Hooters Air Chairman Brooks thinks he has the answer to that one.
“Sex sells” is nothing new, and certainly not exclusive to Hooters Air. We witness it every day, from every corner of the nation. You can’t turn on a television without seeing a man or woman in skimpy clothing using sex to sell shampoo, blue jeans or beer. Flip the channel, there’s Paris Hilton washing a Bentley while eating a burger – who hasn’t done that? On the next station, you see Heather Locklear batting the baby blues to convince women they can be as desirable to men as she is, if only they use the right hair coloring.
With the exception of chartered planes to Kennedy family functions, the relationship between airlines and sex has been dwindling, not growing along with other industries. The airline industry bucked the “sex sells” inclination, and even reversed the trend. “Stewardesses” became “flight attendants,” their clothing became less revealing, and more of them became male. Hooters Air has simply done what businesses from Carnegie Steel to Microsoft have done – found a need, or want, and filled it.
The “sex sells” axiom bothers some, at least until they’re distracted by a scantily clad model in some commercial, but it’s a reality. In the direction we’re headed, I wouldn’t be surprised if other areas in desperate need of more attention, funding or whatever soon catch on. For example, if “sex sells,” should it be used to sell something that really matters, like education?
Take American history as an educational example. Which sells better, copies of historic documents, or Pepsi? That’s right. Maybe we should take the reins from the Department of Education and hand them to Madison Avenue for a while, charging them with the goal of getting more people to read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Right now Jessica Simpson would be donning a tube top, looking into a camera, attempting to decipher words penned by Thomas Jefferson, and trying not to giggle. If so, maybe more people would read these things … while, of course, drinking a Pepsi that Britney Spears told them to buy.
Where will expansion take Robert Brooks’ company? Until Hooters Air gets some competition, it’s up, up and away.