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JetBlue Airways

(JBLU) - Get JetBlue Airways Corporation Report

reported a 20% rise in third-quarter earnings Thursday on strong growth in passenger traffic, despite the difficulties facing the airline industry since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The New York-based airline, known for its low fares, leather seats and free Direct TV, posted a net profit of $12.2 million, or 27 cents a share, a penny shy of estimates, up from $10.1 million, or 30 cents a share, a year earlier when the company had fewer shares outstanding. Analysts were expecting the company to earn 28 cents a share, according to a poll conducted by research firm Thomson Financial/First Call.

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Many of the nation's top airlines are being squeezed by sharp declines in revenue, as ticket prices have fallen and business travel remains weak. JetBlue, which keeps its fares low by not offering an in-flight meal and flying less frequently, said total operating revenue for the third quarter doubled to $165.3 million from $82.6 million last year.

"Our consistent profitability in the face of a challenging industry environment demonstrates that we can do so in a way that offers long-term shareholder value," the company said in a press release. "Our focus remains on driving top-line growth by providing exceptional customer service, while continuing to maximize operating efficiencies as we grow."

As of Tuesday's close, the stock was up 31% since hitting a 52-week low of $29.75 on Oct. 10. In recent trading, the shares were down $2.96, or 7.3%, at $37.79.