Winston Aldworth 's Opinion

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Knee Defender or knee jerks? The gadget that has sparked mid-flight fury

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Reclining seats on planes have long been a contentious issue - but now a gadget designer to protect passengers' knees has also caused controversy. Photo / Thinkstock
Reclining seats on planes have long been a contentious issue - but now a gadget designer to protect passengers' knees has also caused controversy. Photo / Thinkstock

The inflight battle for legroom went up a notch or two on Monday when a plane was diverted after a row broke out between two passengers aboard a United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver.

The source of the problem: a Knee Defender, the $26.30 device that clamps onto an airline tray table, preventing the passenger in front of you from reclining their seat.

These things should be banned from all passenger aircraft.


The worst-case scenario is that you have someone in front of you recline their seat and refuse to put it forward (which they're entitled to do) and some bastard behind you putting the Knee Defender into action.

Read more:
UK airline scraps reclining seats to stop air rage
Top inflight annoyances

On Monday's Flight 1462, the woman seated in front took offence and the man behind refused to remove the device, even when asked to do so by cabin crew. That's when she threw a cup of water in his face and the plane got diverted.

So, who's right and who's wrong?

Well, obviously he's in the wrong.

When you pay to ride in a plane, you're paying to use the seat - and if that means the seat reclines, well bad luck for the person behind. Of course, we should all be reasonable and, if the passenger behind asks nicely, most folk will put their seats forward. Nobody hops on to a plane planning to be an a**hole. Except maybe him.

She's also in the wrong.

Throwing water? C'mon we're grown ups here. And as much as he sounds unpleasant, it's worth bearing in mind that it was her actions that led to the plane being diverted for an unscheduled stop in Chicago.

The Knee Defender's inventor, Ira Goldman, has said people should tell the passenger in front of them when they are using a Knee Defender.

"The Knee Defender says right on it: 'Be courteous. Do not hog space. Listen to the flight crew.' Apparently that is not what happened here," he told USA Today.

United Airlines, like many major US carriers has, banned the device.

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- NZ Herald

Winston Aldworth

Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

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