Compensation: Would You Prefer Your Choice of Gift Card Instead of a Flight Voucher or Miles?

This is a screen shot provided by FlyerTalk member RacingJunkie displaying the options of gift cards and electronic certificates offered by Delta Air Lines as compensation for a flight experience which was supposedly less than exceptional.

FlyerTalk member RacingJunkie received an e-mail message from Delta Air Lines this morning offering compensation in the form of a gift for a flight experience which apparently did not include the “exceptional service” expected by a loyal SkyMiles Medallion elite frequent flier loyalty program member.
Interestingly, the choice of items — all valued at $100.00 — include gift cards and electronic certificates valid for use at merchants such as Hyatt Hotels, Lowe’s, Avis, Callaway and Marriott Hotels and Resorts.
This caused me to wonder: is this form of compensation a good thing?
Well, I suppose it depends on how you look at it — and please keep in mind that these are merely my initial thoughts which will hopefully prompt you to discuss your point of view either in the Comments below or in this discussion on FlyerTalk.
As you may know, I prefer to use credit cards which offer a cash rebate instead of those which reward spend with frequent travel loyalty program miles or points. One of the main reasons for this is that I can do whatever I want with the cash I receive, as I am not beholden to the rules and restrictions of a frequent travel loyalty program dictating to me what I should and cannot do with the miles or points which I earn — and judging by many of the policy changes announced this year alone which have been negatively perceived by FlyerTalk members, my reasoning is arguably valid…
…so it stands to reason that I initially like the idea of being able to have a choice of compensation which I could use. I am not always certain of when will be the next time I will fly as a passenger on a commercial aircraft — but I could always use something for my home, which would prompt me to select the Lowe’s gift card — or perhaps I need a hotel room on a road trip I am planning but do not have the frequent guest loyalty program points in my account to cover it, which would prompt me me to select either the Hyatt or Marriott offerings.
You get the idea.
I have no knowledge about this as it is pure speculation, but Delta Air Lines may benefit from offering these types of compensation as well. Do they get advertising revenue? Are these gift cards and electronic certificates less expensive to offer than actual miles or “Delta Dollar” vouchers good on a future flight — with the added possible benefit of having one fewer passenger using the seat at a discount versus a passenger who will pay more for that seat, such as in a full fare ticket? Will Delta Air Lines save money on compensation overall with this method?…
…and that leads to a possible disadvantage: is this form of compensation in lieu of a $400.00 voucher? Probably not. Although there are different types of compensation for different reasons — and RacingJunkie does not know the precise reason for being offered the compensation in question here — this does not sound like compensation for a voluntary “bump” or denied boarding.
Still, what if RacingJunkie was offered $100.00 in gift cards instead of a $200.00 voucher on a future flight? Would this be fair? Could a $100.00 gift card to a merchant of your choosing actually be more valuable than a $200.00 voucher — usually valid for one year from the date of issue — on a future flight?
I am all for airlines and lodging companies devising creative ways to either increase revenues or save money — such as baggage delivery service by American Airlines or premium meal service for passengers in the economy class cabin on certain international flights operated by US Airways, both announced last year — as long as it also benefits the customer and not at the expense of him or her in terms of decreased amenities or increased inconveniences. I am not sure at this time, but I do know one thing is for certain: RacingJunkie did not exactly view the choices offered as the “greatest options.”
What do you think? If you had your choice of compensation, what would it be — and as the result of what situation? In what ways would you suggest that airlines and lodging companies compensate you when you are inconvenienced or dissatisfied? What are your favorite types of compensation?

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