Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

You're 66 years old.

You're flying from Las Vegas to Hawaii, where you hope it's going to be warm.

Currently, however, you're sitting on a plane and you're feeling cold.

It seems that this 66-year-old passenger asked for a blanket. Once upon a time, this would have been a decent, routine request.

But this was Hawaiian Airlines. It has its own approach to nickel, dime, and have a shivering time.

For it demands you hand over $12 before it gives you a blanket.

It's reasonable to ask what the blanket might have been doing, had the man not asked for it. Probably sitting in some overhead locker, garlanded in a lei.

Yet to make one 66-year-old man warmer, it would take $12.

The story as we know it relates that the man was aghast at being gouged for such a simple thing.

It may (or may not) be that he became a touch irate. It seems there was an in-flight conversation with corporate head office.

During this, the allegation goes, the man uttered these words: "I would like to take someone behind the woodshed for this."

No, of course I don't condone violence. But a 66-year-old man can probably remember a time when, if he'd asked for a blanket, he would have been told: "Certainly, sir."

Oh, I almost forgot.

The woodshed comment got the flight diverted to Los Angeles Airport, because the passenger had been deemed "unruly."

One or two people might feel that a rule that demands $12 for a blanket is the very definition of unruly.

But still. Severe capitalists will tell me -- as they have before -- that airlines' nickel-and-diming is simply the laws of the market operating.

With a kitchen knife on a gall bladder without anesthetic, I assume.

A Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman told me: "We don't know the demeanor of the passenger, what was said, or the tone."

She said it was the captain's decision to divert the plane, because of the information he'd been provided by the cabin crew.

As for the cost of the blanket, ah, now there's a story. They're free on international flights, redeyes, and flights from New York City to Honolulu.

"For daytime flights between the West Coast and Hawaii, blankets are provided complimentary in First Class and Extra Comfort cabins, and they are available for purchase in economy," the spokeswoman told me.

Because economy is a No Comforts At All cabin.

She added that the blanket cost was $10, not the reported $12.

Why the demented discrimination? The airline didn't say.

Too many airlines are now convinced that price is all that matters and even the slightest convenience must be paid for. They blame the customers, naturally.

Little do they seem to care that all they're creating are commodities.

There will soon be no difference between them. There will be no brand advantage on which they can trade.

They will just be another bus company.

Delta seems one airline that at least senses this might happen. It's actually beginning to offer meals in coach. Yes, free meals.

Too often, though, the trend drifts toward: "Can we charge them for air? How about for toilet paper?"

Brands often incite emotions similar to those between humans. When one human offers another a kind gesture, it can mean a lot. Equally, brands can build positive feelings -- and even loyalty -- by doing the same.

But many have decided that it's not worth it. They've decided that customers are venal, so they will be too.

Or did it actually start with airlines wondering just how much they could get away with in order to make more and more money?

By the by, the man wasn't charged. He got on another flight. I hope he was warm enough.

Published on: Mar 9, 2017
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