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The 'Knee Defender' Strikes Again, Causes United Flight to Divert

August 25, 2014 at 5:48 PM | by | ()

People are crazy. That is the one thing to keep in mind as we start in on this week's tale of ridiculous behavior on an airplane.

Sunday's United flight 1462 from Newark to Denver was forced to divert to Chicago-O'Hare after a mid-air argument erupted over legroom. The two parties—a man and woman, both coincidentally aged 48— came to harsh words over the man's use of "Knee Defenders" to prevent the woman seated in front of him from reclining.

Knee Defenders (pictured in use, above), are a $21.95 pair of doohickies designed to fit between a meal try and the seat it's attached to, which inhibits the recline of said seat. They are unofficially prohibited by airlines, and Knee Defender itself recommends doing the decent thing of providing a "courtesy card" to explain the use of the devices to the effected parties. Alas, it is apparent that such common decency was absent on this United flight.

Our buddy, Scott Mayerowitz of the AP, lays out the facts:

The fight started when the male passenger, seated in a middle seat of row 12, used the Knee Defender to stop the woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak.

A flight attendant asked him to remove the device and he refused. The woman then stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water at him, the official says. That's when United decided to land in Chicago. The two passengers were not allowed to continue to Denver.

Both passengers were sitting in United's Economy Plus section, the part of the plane that has four more inches of legroom than the rest of coach.

There are many issues with this entire scene; let's think about the inanity here a moment and work through the who's right/who's wrong issues:

· He's wrong: He is enough of a jerk of actually purchase and use something which will deny the right of recline to someone else, paying perfectly good money for a working seat, on his future flights.

· She's wrong: She escalated the confrontation to a sort of violence by dousing him with water.

· He's wrong: He disobeyed a request from a flight attendant. This alone is grounds for an arrest.

· She's wrong: She did not turn around to check what the passenger behind her was doing before reclining (not mandatory, but a general nice thing we always do, especially since she could have broken his laptop screen with a snap recline).

· He's wrong: United supposedly prohibits the use of Knee Defenders, and he used them, even in a row which already affords him extra legroom.

The bottom line is that they're both at fault in some way, although the man with the Knee Defender should be in deeper trouble for both using the "prohibited" items and denying a flight attendant request. The fact that the use of Knee Defender has the potential to start such arguments which could lead to an emergency flight diversion means that their prohibition is justified. Either way, this entire situation is extremely annoying and people are crazy.

What do you think?

[Photo: Knee Defender via Core77]

Archived Comments:

Turn around and check before reclining?

I guess that's a nice thing to do but it's only really possible to do when you're in the aisle seat. In short, that guy is a jerk for using the Knee Defender and disobeying the flight attendant. The woman had all the advantage in the fight until she threw the water. So if someone uses Knee Defender on you, just keep calm and tell the flight attendant. Lol. We should make one of those cards.

Knee Defender Users are unconsciously coward

Knee Defender Users are unconsciously coward people. They surely don't use it when the guy in front look alike a Marine, Boxer of Football Player. They use its only if the victim in front SEEMS smaller or weaker. They are coward because not daring to ask nicely the other guy not reclining very far by appealing with politeness.

Laptop Not Involved

The laptop issue is not in play because he was sitting in an Economy Plus seat. Unless he was farsighted and forgot his glasses, there's no reason why his laptop would be jammed against the seat in front of him.

Additionally, unless he was 6'6+, those extra 4 inches that come with Economy Plus mean that his knees didn't need to be defended.

And I'm with Juliana; the pre-recline courtesy check is hard to do unless you're on the aisle.

Interesting Article

This is not a matter or who is right or who is wrong ... at 35,000+ feet in the air, it is a matter of how do we get from point A to point B safely, and without incident. I can see why airlines would prohibit an item such as knee defender as the potential for non-cordial passenger interaction would certainly be increased. I wonder if the gentleman using them had his seat reclined? I suppose a remedy would be to make ALL seats on the airline permanently fixed.