Should the Knee Defender Be Allowed on Airline Flights?

Photo (cc) by kevin dooley

Two travelers were booted off a United Airlines flight this weekend after a heated exchange over the use of a Knee Defender.

What is this thing? you ask. It’s two small plastic devices, retailing for $21.95, that attach to the arms of your tray table and prevent the passenger in front of you from reclining their seat. The Knee Defender is reportedly prohibited by all of the major airlines, including United, that still have reclining seats.

“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,” The Associated Press said.

AP said the two people were seated in Economy Plus, which has 4 more inches of legroom than those crowded seats in coach.

According to news accounts, the man refused to remove the Knee Defender, even after a flight attendant asked him to. Then the woman in front reportedly dumped a cup of water on him.

United landed the flight in Chicago and let the two passengers off, then continued to Denver. No arrests were made.

The question we pose to you is: Should the Knee Defender be allowed on flights?

Bill Saporito wrote in an opinion piece on Time:

Being 6 foot 2 inches and long of leg, I’m in a near rage by the time I wedge myself into a coach seat. And now you want to jam your chair back into my knees for four hours? Go fly a kite. It’s an airline seat, not a lounge chair. You want comfort, buy a business class seat.

On the other side of the issue, Sarah Miller wrote on Time:

Buying a Knee Defender is cheating. It is like insider trading, but worse, because not everyone expects to get rich. Everyone does expect to recline.

Added Chris Matyszczyk on CNET:

Surely the first step when a seat suddenly reclines in your direction is to politely ask the passenger in front whether you can reach an accommodation. Slapping them in your own self-righteous seat-cuffs is a touch provocative.

Ira Goldman, who invented the Knee Defender, told the Los Angeles Times that the device comes with a label that says “Be courteous. Do not hog space. Listen to flight crew.” The Times added:

It’s not meant for space-hogs, Goldman said, but rather to serve as an “early warning” system for travelers who don’t want seat backs to unexpectedly collide with knees, babies on their laps, or laptop screens.

In fact, he said, the devices can be adjusted to allow seat backs to recline halfway.

This whole situation seems incredibly juvenile. Knee Defenders aren’t allowed on United flights, so don’t bring them. And it’s not OK to dump a cup of water on a fellow passenger.

The other passengers on the plane really got the raw end of the deal. Because the flight was diverted, they arrived at their Denver destination an hour and 38 minutes late, AP said.

Do you think Knee Defenders should be allowed on planes? Who do you think is in the wrong here? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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