DALLAS (AP) — JetBlue has changed its loyalty program so that travelers' points don't expire, matching the policy at Delta, an increasingly important competitor in the New York City area.

Until now, JetBlue Airways Corp. customers had to book another flight or make a purchase on their JetBlue-branded American Express card every 12 months to prevent their points from expiring.

Dave Canty, JetBlue's director of loyalty marketing, says the change wasn't aimed at any particular competitor, but rather addressed a common complaint.

"Customers were telling us, 'I love the program, I just wish my points had a longer life.'" Canty said this week. "This left a poor taste in their mouth."

And customers didn't just want the one-year period extended to two years or three years, Canty said. They wanted it eliminated.

Loyalty programs are important tools that airlines use to keep customers coming back instead of jumping to a competitor. Not only do repeat customers earn free trips, they can ascend to elite status that rewards them with priority boarding and no bag fees.

TrueBlue is three years old and, with about 12 million members, far smaller than several rivals. American Airlines' AAdvantage program, for example, has about 72 million members.

Last year, customers made about 753,000 free flights on TrueBlue points, 3 percent of miles traveled by all passengers. Canty said free flights should top 1 million this year.

As loyalty program changes go, JetBlue's move to end points expiring isn't as dramatic as the shift to base rewards and elite status on spending, not just miles. That favors big-spending business travelers over passengers who run up miles with long trips on cheaper tickets.

Delta, with one of the biggest programs, announced a step toward favoring spending over miles in January. New York-based JetBlue already awarded points by dollars spent.

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