Here it is: The worst airline seat ever! (Thanks, Aer Lingus)

Have you ever wondered what the worst airline seat in the history of modern-day commercial flight looks like? Well, wonder no more! Aer Lingus recently assigned Matt Madrigal to the worst airline seat ever.

For his entire transatlantic flight to Dublin, Madrigal endured the dirty “seat” with no cushion and exposed metal.

Ouch!

Now his mom is furious with Aer Lingus’ treatment of her son. And she wants to know if the Elliott Advocacy team can help.

This case underscores the importance of learning how to self-advocate in real time. This concept is the foundation of Elliott Advocacy. If you’re presented with a wholly unacceptable situation, it’s critical to voice those concerns at the time. If you don’t, you may endure unnecessary, unpleasant conditions that should have — and could have — been corrected immediately.

Flying Aer Lingus in the worst airline seat ever

“The entire flight to Ireland, Aer Lingus made my son sit in the worst airline seat I’ve ever seen.” Janet Madrigal reported. “He sent me a picture of his seat. I had to ask him what the picture was — it didn’t even look like an airline seat.”

If you’re a regular reader of our site, then you know we don’t take third-party cases. But, even with that policy in place, we continue to receive a steady stream of requests for help from helicopter parents.

Trying to advocate cases through a mom or a dad only complicates matters. We often discover that in their haste to defend their offspring, parents have blurred the facts. Or have missed critical components that can change the way our advocacy team approaches the case. For these reasons, we ask parents to have the adult child resubmit their very own request. In most cases, we don’t ever hear from these “children.”

In this situation, though, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to see a photo of the worst airline seat — ever. But I guessed that this may just be an overprotective mama bear defending her baby boy. I thought that she might be seeing this horrible airline seat through slightly biased eyes.

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I was wrong.

Is this really an Aer Lingus passenger seat?

Here'e the worst airline seat ever. It's on Aer Lingus. Michelle Couch-Friedman, author.

At first, I had trouble figuring out the photo that Janet Madrigal sent me. But as my eyes focused, I had to agree with her. Aer Lingus did give her son the worst airline seat ever!

His assigned seat was just the shell of a seat — with a missing cushion and dirty plastic. I struggled to figure out how Aer Lingus could have allowed one of its passengers to endure this uncomfortable, monstrosity posing as an airline seat.

I asked Janet Madrigal if her son had complained at the time. She explained:

He told me that the flight was boarding late and there was a bunch of ‘over-served’ policeman 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.

Took one for the team? No one should have to take this one for the team. Her son, an inexperienced traveler, failed to understand the unacceptable nature of his situation. I joined Janet Madrigal in her outrage for her son and agreed that the $50 voucher was insufficient compensation.

But it was time to double check all the facts with Matthew Madrigal.

He did sit in the worst airline seat ever — the whole way to Dublin

I contacted Matthew Madrigal to find out what exactly happened onboard this Aer Lingus flight. I was particularly interested in finding out how the flight attendants explained his horrendous seating arrangement. He reported:

The flight was two days previous to Saint Patrick’s Day, so naturally, the plane was full of intoxicated patrons. I asked the flight attendant what was going on with my seat when we were boarding. She asked me to sit in it until everyone was aboard and settled. Soon after everyone was on, I asked the flight attendant again. She told me she would get back to me. She never did. Once we took off, I could see I had no other option but to sit in that seat. There were no empty seats. Because the intoxicated patrons were extremely loud and disrespectful, the flight attendants were flustered.

In his attempt to be polite and easy-going, Madrigal had doomed himself to that uncushioned seat. If he had made his complaint firmly known on the ground, Aer Lingus would have been forced to fix the situation. Once the flight became airborne, the Aer Lingus flight attendants had no way to address this bizarre problem.

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Madrigal’s story recalled another awful airline seat case that our advocacy team tried to tackle recently. In that situation, JetBlue forced Sam Cristol to partially share his own airline seat with the man beside him. That man didn’t fit in his own seat and overflowed into Cristol’s. Unfortunately, Cristol also waited until his cross-country flight was already in the air before asking for assistance from the flight attendants. JetBlue placed a value for his inconvenience at $100 in the form of a voucher. And JetBlue lost a loyal customer in the end.

Aer Lingus responds

In this case, Madrigal (Or, I suspect, his mom did) had already used Elliott Advocacy’s company contacts for Aer Lingus and requested compensation.

The response from Aer Lingus was underwhelming.

Please accept my sincere apology for Aer Lingus not having met your expectations. I am very sorry for the inconvenience and disappointment resulting from your damaged seat on the flight.

Our maintenance crews regularly inspect aircraft to ensure onboard items such as seats, meal trays, entertainment systems, etc. are in working order. While ground time may limit their ability to inspect every item, normally, guests experiencing difficulties in-flight on the previous sector would inform cabin crew who in turn would report such items to the maintenance teams and repair would be made prior to departure. A copy of your comments will be forwarded to our Head office in Dublin for their review and internal handling.

While we cannot accede to your request for compensation, an e-voucher in the amount of $50.00, will be sent out under separate cover, as our gesture of goodwill.

A gesture of goodwill? Aer Lingus forced Madrigal to sit in the shell of an airline seat for 7 hours. He paid $658 for this roundtrip flight from Chicago to Dublin. During half of that journey, Aer Lingus did not provide him with an acceptable airline seat by any standards. This response did not sit right with me. I wondered if anyone at Aer Lingus had looked at the photo.

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Aer Lingus responds again

European law protects air travelers in a much more comprehensive way than US law. The EU 261 forces European airlines to compensate travelers who they involuntarily downgrade on flights to and from Europe. This compensation is at a rate of 75 percent of the one-way fare for a trip of this length.

Although the regulation (Here’s the EU 261 in its entirety) does not address this particular scenario, I felt that we could make a case that Aer Lingus had downgraded Madrigal to a sub-par airline seat category.

So I contacted Aer Lingus on Madrigal’s behalf and forwarded the photo of the worst airline seat I’ve ever seen. I requested that the airline compensate Madrigal further for this unusual circumstance.

After taking a look at that photo, the executives at Aer Lingus reconsidered Madrigal’s case. The airline offered him a $500 voucher on top of the previously offered $50. Madrigal is pleased with this resolution, and in the future, he will undoubtedly make sure that any unacceptable situations are resolved before his flight leaves the ground.

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, SEO-lady, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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