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Hooters Sued over Airline Idea

Chicago- Three former aviation students at Southern Illinois University filed suit today against Hooters of America Inc., accusing the restaurant chain of lifting their idea for an airline without properly compensating them, CLTV reported.

When the plaintiffs confronted Hooters about taking their ideas to launch its new airline, they were rebuffed, a company official telling them to “get a good lawyer,” the lawsuit alleges.

Efforts were being made to reach a Hooters spokesman for comment.

The suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court by Chicago attorney Larry Drury, contends the students presented the company with their idea for an airline, “Hoot Air,” as part of a 1997 class project in aviation management at the Carbondale campus of SIU.

The presentation, including a business plan and a video, was sent to Hooters two years later, the suit alleges. At the time, management told the students it was not interested in starting an airline.

In August 2002, Hooters bought an existing airline, Pace Airlines, a division of Piedmont Hawthorne Aviation. The deal came with 17 Boeing jets and 350 employees of the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based operation. The airline was renamed Hooters Air.

The suit contends Hooters then lifted the students’ ideas for the design of the aircraft, flight attendants dressed like Hooters waitresses and Hooters restaurant memorabilia in the cabin.

Hooters Air even adopted the students’ proposed flight schedules including routes to Rockford, Gary, Newark, Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas and other cities, the suit states.

The suit asks the courts to recognize the plaintiffs have a legal interest in Hooters Air. Among other things, the litigation also seeks unspecified damages, shares of profits and an equity or management interest in the airline.

The case has its first court hearing in November.

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