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UPDATE 2-JetBlue Airways 2nd-quarter profit, revenue top estimates

(Adds analyst comment, updates share price)

July 25 (Reuters) - U.S. carrier JetBlue Airways Corp reported a 16.6 percent rise in second-quarter profit on Tuesday, helped partly by higher average fares.

Net income rose to $211 million, or 64 cents per share, in the quarter, from $181 million, or 53 cents per share, a year earlier. Total operating revenue rose 12.1 percent to $1.84 billion.

Analysts, on average, expected quarterly earnings of 57 cents per share on revenue of $1.83 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In a research note, JP Morgan analyst Jamie Baker cited JetBlue's willingness to raise fares both independently and in line with the industry for the carrier's solid financial performance.

Average fares on the New York-based carrier rose 4 percent in the second quarter to $160.03 from $153.94 from the year prior.

Shares added 0.7 percent to $22.91 at midday.

Unit revenue, which compares sales to flight capacity, climbed 7 percent in the quarter, rising for the first time in eight quarters.

"Our second quarter unit revenue exceeded our initial guidance as a result of our targeted revenue initiatives and a solid demand environment," JetBlue President and Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes said in a statement.

Unit revenue has lagged in much of the sector for the last several quarters as increased competition and cheaper fares have weighed on the industry.

In the latest period, JetBlue said that excluding fuel, its operating expenses per available seat mile rose 5.1 percent to 8.16 cents. The company forecast an increase in that metric of between 1.5 percent and 3.5 percent for the third quarter.

JetBlue expects third-quarter capacity, or how many seats an airline flies and how far it flies them, to increase between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent year over year. (Reporting by Alana Wise in New York and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri and Jeffrey Benkoe)