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UPDATE 1-JetBlue profit falls on higher expenses, hurricanes

(Adds Wall Street estimates)

NEW YORK, Oct 24 (Reuters) - JetBlue Airways Corp on Tuesday said its third-quarter net income fell to $179 million, down by $20 million from the year prior, hurt by higher operating expenses and flight cancellations during a severe hurricane season.

The carrier reported quarterly earnings of 55 cents per share, down from 58 cents in the year-ago quarter. That was ahead of Wall Street's average forecast of 53 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Its shares fell slightly in pre-market trading.

"Our third quarter results were impacted by two hurricanes that reduced our (earnings per share) by approximately 6 cents. We are confident that the adjustments we are making to our network will limit any ongoing financial impact in 2018," JetBlue Chief Executive Robin Hayes said in a statement.

The carrier's operating expenses increased by $125 million, or 9.1 percent, from the previous year, on the back of significantly higher fuel and labor costs.

The airline has been struggling to keep down the costs of its largely New York-based operation, and costlier fuel coupled with industry demands for better wages have made it more difficult to keep a lid on expenses.

Including fuel, JetBlue's operating expense per available seat mile increased by 5.2 percent in the third quarter to 10.50 cents. (Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by Bill Rigby)