‘Knee Defender’ Creates Chaos, Diverts Denver Flight

The Knee Defender usually costs $21.95 plus tax. Today it costs a whole lot more.

9News is reporting that a man, seated in the middle row of aisle 12, used this device so he could work on his portable computer unabated. The female passenger in the seat in front of him tried to recline, but because of the Knee Defender in use, was unable to. She contacted a flight attendant, who then asked the man to remove the device. The man refused. The woman then got up and threw a cup of water on the man. There was no word if she also got water on the man’s portable computer.

Upon this action, United Airlines flight 1462 from Newark, New Jersey to Denver was immediately diverted to O’Hare airport in Chicago, where the man and woman were removed from the plane. After an investigation, the flight and the remaining passengers were allowed to continue on to Denver, where they arrived much later. The two passengers in question were detained in Chicago, but eventually released and never arrested.

The Federal Aviation Administration leaves it up to the individual airlines as to whether customers can use this device. All airlines, including United, have disallowed their use. Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air have taken it one step further, and have removed the reclining mechanism from all seats, leaving them in the permanent upright position.

Although it’s nothing new, it’s rather surprising that this is the first time the Knee Defender has made headlines, reports Gizmodo. It’s almost too simple to be called a gadget: A pair of plastic braces are inserted on the passenger’s tray table arms to prevent the seat in front of them from moving backwards. Airlines spoke out against the Knee Defender when it came out, but the FAA said they did not violate any specific rules. It even pretends to be polite: It comes with tiny courtesy cards you can print out and hand to the passenger in front of you to explain why their seat reclining feature is temporarily disabled.

The Daily Mail reports both unnamed passengers, age 48, were met at Chicago by both Chicago Police and Transportation and Safety Administration officials. Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the TSA, said after an investigation, they “deemed it a customer service situation.” Flight 1462 did arrive in Denver, about 1 hour 38 minutes late, according to the United website.

The Federal Aviation Administration can impose a civil fine of up to $25,000 for passengers who are unruly. In this case, no arrest was made, according to airport spokesman Gregg Cunningham.

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