updated 10/28/2004 1:38:57 PM ET 2004-10-28T17:38:57

JetBlue Airways Corp. said Thursday its profit plunged 71 percent in the third quarter, cut sharply by industry competition, record-high fuel prices and the effects of hurricanes.

The low-fare air carrier said net income fell to $8.4 million, or 8 cents a share, from the prior year's $29 million, or 26 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had forecast, on average, third-quarter earnings of 10 cents a share for Forest Hills, N.Y.-based JetBlue.

Total operating revenue rose 18 percent to $323.2 million from the previous year's $273.6 million. However, the latest quarter's amount is less than the roughly $333.5 million Wall Street expected.

Revenue passenger miles for the third quarter increased 29.1 percent to 4.2 billion from 3.25 billion last year. A revenue passenger mile is one paying passenger flown one mile. Quarterly load factor, or percentage of seats filled, fell to 84.9 percent from 87.7 percent a year ago.

During the quarter, fuel cost $1.08 a gallon, up 33 percent from the previous year's quarterly fuel price of 81 cents a gallon.

For the first nine months of the year, net income fell 47 percent to $45.1 million, or 41 cents a share, from the prior year's $84.4 million, or 80 cents a share.

Nine-month operating revenue rose 27 percent to $931.9 million from the previous year's $735.4 million.

Shares of JetBlue were at $22.67 in afternoon trading Thursday, up 23 cents, or 1 percent, on heavy volume on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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