There was plenty of bad news in the latest quarterly report from Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU). The company missed analyst estimates by two cents, operating margins declined sharply, load factors were down from year-earlier levels, and the company's on-time performance fell. So, what was so amazing about this quarter?

Start by looking for other profitable airlines. Among the major carriers, Southwest Airlines' (NYSE:LUV) 54th profitable quarter and JetBlue's 15 consecutively profitable quarters are noteworthy. America West Holding (NASDAQ:AWA) lost $44.2 million in its third quarter -- ending a string of five consecutively profitable quarters. ATA, the U.S.'s 10th-largest airline, filed for bankruptcy and joined United, USAir, and Hawaiian as court-run airlines. Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) has avoided bankruptcy for now, with a tentative wage agreement with its pilots and lots of financing with "significant conditions" -- $500 million from General Electric's (NYSE:GE) Commercial Finance unit and up to $600 million from American Express' (NYSE:AXP) Travel Related Services Company.

What is amazing is that JetBlue was profitable while growing available seat miles (the industry measure for capacity) by 33% while others contracted or stood still. It is even more amazing that this profitable growth occurred while four hurricanes ravaged the company's key operating areas and fuel prices soared.

What makes JetBlue unique? Many will point to 36 channels of DirecTV (NYSE:DTV) entertainment in every leather-covered seat back. Other will simply note the three straight years as the winner of CondeNast's Traveler's Readers' Choice Award for best domestic airline. Low cost and an airline people like to use are a winning formula.

But that formula has another element. When fellow contributor Tom Taulli saw I was going to write about JetBlue, he emailed me about CEO David Neeleman and his latest trip on JetBlue. Tom, like me, has seen Mr. Neeleman working as we passed through the company's New York hub. This is not a CEO stuck in a walnut-paneled office out of touch with customers and employees. He is hands-on -- and that (amazingly?) probably accounts for his understanding of what passengers want and what it takes to provide it.

JetBlue's stock is trading at 52 times current-year estimates and 39 times 2005 estimates. That is far from cheap. But, when operating expenses are 6.08 cents per operating mile -- and competitor Southwest is at 7.61 cents -- there is clearly room for this amazing story, like a fine wine, to improve with age.

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Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.