Le Monde discovers Hooters Air

Pardon me if I’m slow to re-engage with the more serious subjects currently engaging the world’s attention. For instance, the rest of the world’s attitude at present towards America’s increasing troubles in Iraq, in terms of contributing both finance and manpower to help out, needs to be examined. France having taken its place at the forefront of opposition to America’s warplans back in the spring, the French press would be the logical place to start doing this . . .

But I’m still in the US, and still in a sort of “vacation” frame-of-mind. That means I’m easily sidetracked by serendipitous articles with – shall we say – unconventional appeal. As an example, the prominent French daily Le Monde has finally discovered Hooters Air. It likes what it sees (I’m speaking mainly figuratively here) and is not shy to say so with typical Gallic frankness.

(First, a note to readers who may be as occupied with things other than Hooters Air as the French. What is it? It’s the airline set up last year by Hooters. What is Hooters? It’s the chain of restaurants to be found all over America, and in some foreign countries, too – but not in France – for which the overriding theme is attractive waitresses dressed in uniforms of orange short-shorts and white tank-tops with the Hooters-owl logo. For more information, check out the corporate web-site.)

Back to Le Monde‘s article: it’s entitled Hooters Air, l’hôtesse ou l’avion? (“Hooters Air, the stewardess or the airplane?”). Writer Cédrine Colas (that’s a man’s name) wastes no time in setting down the essential facts for his non-American audience: namely that “hooters” means both hiboux – that’s “owls” – and seins, or “breasts.” Riding that double-entendre for all that it’s worth for twenty years now, Hooters CEO Robert H. Brooks had already succeeded in building up enviable revenue and a hard-core clientele for his chain of restaurants. So it wasn’t too far-fetched a concept to extend the brand somewhat when he founded Hooters Air last year, aided by the availability of a minor outfit called Pace Airlines, then teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, ready to sell its flying assets.

Colas goes on to report that the essential elements of this airline – other than the prominent Hooters logo painted on the fuselage – are the two stewardesses à l’opulente poitrine (or “of opulent chests”) who, during the flight, pass out the menus for the in-flight meals and otherwise entertain the passengers with quizzes and the like. Don’t worry: The actual in-flight service, the actual flying of the airplanes, and the security are taken care of by more traditional personnel (“more covered,” is the way Colas describes them).

Otherwise, Hooters Air also attracts passengers with its oversized seats, as well as its cheap fares. Too bad that, so far, its operations are limited to service between Baltimore and Newark in the Northeast and Atlanta and Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) in the Southeast. Apparently it also offers special charter flights – although here Colas reveals his ignorance when he mentions such flights being undertaken to transport “base-ball” fans to the “Super Ball.”

The tone of the article is plainly “Now why can’t we start up something similar in our country?” Colas even writes about the wives who thoughtfully reserve seats on Hooters Air for their husbands (although it doesn’t mention these women flying on the airline themselves) to help their men avoid the usual stresses associated with flying. And of course Hooters Air is part of that élite club of airlines whose financial performance has gotten better with the passage of time in a post-September 11 environment which has meant trouble for so many other airlines.

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