Spirit Airlines Launches Frequent-Flier Program

Miramar-based Spirit Airlines on Wednesday introduced a frequent-flier program and co-branded credit card, offering passengers the ability to earn points toward free flights.

Barry Biffle, Spirit's chief marketing officer, said the airline's research showed that about half of current passengers would like a frequent-flier program. And not having a program was one of the top reasons travelers don't fly the airline today, he said. ''It drives loyalty, it drives retention and keeps people coming back,'' Biffle said.

The low-cost carrier's top mile-earning member will get a plane named after him or her, limousine service for a year to and from the airport and free trips, the airline said.

Spirit's program, Free Spirit, gives award travel available on every flight, without blackout dates, the carrier said. Domestic awards start at 15,000 miles and Caribbean awards start at 20,000 miles.

The airline is also launching its own MasterCard, through Juniper Bank.

MANUFACTURING HEICO REPORTS SURGE IN EARNINGS

Heico Corp. (HEI.A, HEI) on Wednesday reported first-quarter net income jumped 52 percent to $6.7 million, or 26 cents per share, from $4.4 million, or 17 cents per share, in the first quarter of fiscal 2005.

The company, which has dual headquarters in Miami and Hollywood, said revenue for the first quarter rose 55 percent to $88.1 million, compared to $57 million for the same period last year.

CONSTRUCTION MASTEC REPORTS NARROWER LOSS

After posting earnings in the first three quarters in 2005, MasTec (MTZ) reported losses of $14.6 million, or 29 cents per share, for the year based on discontinuing operations involving state transportation projects.

The 2005 losses were an improvement over losses of $49.4 million in 2004 but still marked the fifth straight year of red ink for the Coral Gables company, one of the largest U.S. builders and installers of communications and utility systems.

Revenue rose from $807 million in 2004 to $848 million in 2005.

RETAIL CHICO'S REPORTS HIGHER EARNINGS

Fourth-quarter earnings at Fort Myers-based retailer Chico's FAS (CHS) climbed 34.9 percent to a record $44 million or 24 cents per share, compared to $33 million, or 18 cents per share, in the same period of the previous year.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 31.6 percent to $376 million.

For the fiscal year ended Jan. 28, Chico's net income jumped 37.4 percent to $194 million or $1.06 per share, compared to $141 million or 78 cents per share in the previous year. Revenue rose 31.7 percent to $1.4 billion.

BELLSOUTH DIRECTORS HAVE BUSINESS TIES

Three BellSouth Corp. directors have ties to businesses the company paid a total of more than $1.3 million in fees to last year, according to a regulatory filing issued Wednesday.

Such related-party transactions are common at big corporations, but some corporate governance experts have questioned whether directors should have ties to companies with which the corporation does business.

BellSouth said in the proxy the board has determined the outside relationships don't prevent directors Reuben Anderson, James Blanchard and Armando Codina from being counted as independent board members under New York Stock Exchange standards.

Last year, BellSouth's real-estate subsidiary paid a subsidiary of Codina's Miami-based Codina Group an $812,000 broker fee to handle the sale of property.

HEALTHCARE INDIVIDUAL POLICIES ARE FUTURE TREND

Soaring medical costs and employers cutting back on insurance has made the healthcare industry ''increasingly difficult,'' Robert I. Lufrano, chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, told leaders of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

The result is a ''large trend'' away from group employer policies and toward individual policies, often with deductibles of $5,000 or $10,000.

NEWSPAPERS JOINT BID POSSIBLE FOR KNIGHT RIDDER

As a deadline nears for submitting bids for Knight Ridder (KRI), MediaNews and Gannett are working on a joint bid, according to a source familiar with the process.

Sources said the Sacramento-based McClatchy newspaper chain also is preparing a bid.

Knight Ridder, parent of The Miami Herald, has set March 9 as the deadline for potential buyers to submit bids, according to several sources. The San Jose company, which is the nation's second-largest newspaper company, put itself up for sale under pressure from shareholders. It is expected to announce a decision about whether to sell in mid-March.

Denver-based MediaNews' private equity partners, Madison Dearborn, Vestar Capital Partners and Onex, would help it finance a purchase. Madison Dearborn is working on a plan for the joint bid, the source said.

MANUFACTURING ANCHOR GLASS WINS COURT APPROVAL

Tampa-based Anchor Glass Container Corp. (AGCCQ.PK), maker of bottles for Anheuser-Busch Cos., won court approval on Wednesday for its creditors to vote on a plan to end the company's third bankruptcy case since 1996.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Alexander Paskay will consider approval of the plan at a hearing on April 17 in Tampa, putting the company on schedule to exit bankruptcy by the end of that month.

TAXES IRS WILL HOLD FREE SEMINAR

If you want to know if you're entitled to a casualty loss deduction or other tax benefits on this year's tax return, this seminar may be for you.

Two representatives from the IRS will be on hand next week to explain provisions of the tax law pertaining to disasters, including new laws passed as a result of hurricanes Wilma and Katrina. Publications and forms will be available.

The free seminar will be from 6 p.m to 8:30 p.m. on March 9 at the North Miami Public Library at 835 NE 132nd St. For more information, call 305-891-5535.

Miami Herald


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