Aviation JetBlue's passenger bumps skyrocket due to 'downgauging' By Robert Silk / April 16, 2017 Share 1 Photo Credit: Shutterstock -- JetBlue, unlike other U.S. carriers, maintains a no-overbooking policy under which it only sells the number of seats that are on an aircraft. For that reason, it used to be the industry standard bearer when it came to having the lowest number of denied boardings. In fact, in 2015, JetBlue involuntarily denied boarding to one in every 500,000 passengers, according to the annual Airline Quality Report produced by Wichita State and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical universities. Then everything got flipped on its head.In 2016, JetBlue saw its rate of involuntary boarding denials increase 46-fold, to 0.92 times per 10,000 passengers. According to the AQR, that’s higher than the industry average of 0.62 per 10,000 and more than double the 0.43 per 10,000 bumping rate of United Airlines.In an email to Travel Weekly, JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart explained that the sudden jump in denials was not related to overbookings. Rather, he said, it was a result of JetBlue "downgauging" flights, from Airbus A321s to A320s for reasons such as unplanned maintenance. "In the rare cases when this occurs, customers are typically notified more than four hours in advance of their flight," Stewart said. "And we work to limit the impact with auto-rebooking on the next available flight or by adding extra flights to the schedule." Still, the sudden jump in boarding denials suggests that JetBlue has made an operational policy change. The carrier took delivery of its first A321 in late 2013 and has steadily brought that number up to 43, according to Planespotters.net. And yet, DOT data shows that in 2015 and the first quarter of 2016, JetBlue did not deny boarding to a single passenger due to downgauging. From April through December 2016, however, the carrier denied boarding to more than 3,100 passengers in order to downgauge. That number of denials added up to more than American, Delta and United combined. Stewart did not respond to questions about what caused the operational change and for how long the downgauging will continue. Unlike cases of overbooking, federal rules do not require carriers to compensate passengers who are bumped from a flight due to downgauging.