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

Never let yourself think that buying an airline ticket entitles you to anything much.

Airlines have good lawyers. Their get-out clauses can be spectacular.

Please, though, spare a thought for Matthew Madrigal. He thought he'd fly from Chicago to Dublin for St. Patrick's Day.

It's a reasonable enough thing to do. What seems less reasonable is what he says Aer Lingus did.

It gave him a plastic seat for the seven-hour flight.

There was no cushion. There was, however, metal sticking out of it.

As consumer advocate Christopher Elliott reports, the plastic wasn't even clean. Indeed, the picture makes it look like a dirty toilet seat in an ugly public restroom. 

Worse, as Madrigal's mom Janet told Elliott, was the compensation offered: 

He told me that the flight was boarding late and there was a bunch of 'over-served' policeman [sic] going to the St. Patty's Day parade abroad. He didn't want to delay the flight any further and so he 'took one for the team.' He pulled some pillows down and made the best of it. He received a $50 voucher for Aer Lingus -- which is in my opinion not acceptable.

Many might think that's disgraceful and, sadly, pretty much what they'd expect from an airline.

I confess I've been in a similar situation to Madrigal's on Virgin Atlantic -- normally a very fine airline. 

I sat in Economy Class on the hardest "seat" I'd ever experienced. After a while, I realized it wasn't really a seat. It was a metal base with a thin piece of foam stuck over it

The Flight Attendant claimed to know nothing about it.

As for Virgin, it admitted that it hadn't had time to repair the seat. It didn't, though, garland me with anything more than a few air miles.

Matthew Madrigal told Elliott that the Flight Attendant had promised to get back to him, after he'd discovered his plastic monstrosity. Instead, he says, she was so flustered dealing with inebriated members of law enforcement that she never did.

I asked Aer Lingus for its view.

"Aer Lingus is currently reviewing this incident. The situation as outlined in this report is not befitting our most basic operating standards. In the meantime, while the review is underway, we have arranged for the guest to be compensated," an airline spokesman told me.

Compensated? Elliott says that the only offer had been the $50, as a "gesture of goodwill." Until, that is, he got involved.

Suddenly, a $500 voucher materialized. Perhaps as a gesture of "Oh, hell. This is really bad publicity, isn't it?"

No airline is perfect. You might have imagined, though, that someone would have noticed a hard, dirty plastic seat was destined for a customer. 

Instead, Madrigal was surely numbed by his experience.

One can only hope the beer in Dublin returned his feelings to a higher plane.

Published on: Jul 7, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.