Denver-bound flight diverted after passengers argue over Knee Defender gadget

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CHICAGO — A United Airlines flight from New Jersey to Denver was diverted Sunday after two passengers got into a heated argument over the ability to recline a seat.

A passenger was using the Knee Defender, a $21.95 gadget that passengers attach to tray tables to prevent the person in front of them from reclining.

It’s up to the airlines to set the rules on use of the device, and most airlines, including United, prohibit its use.

According to The Associated Press, on United Flight 1462 from Newark, N.J., to Denver, a man sitting in a middle seat used the Knee Defender to prevent a woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop.

The man, 48, was told by a flight attendant to remove the device, but he refused. The woman, 48, then stood up and threw a cup of water at the man. The pilot then decided to divert the flight to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Chicago Police and Transportation Security Administration officials met the flight but “deemed it a customer service issue,” TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said. The plane continued to Denver without the squabbling passengers.

The argument occurred in the Economy Plus section, which provides United passengers up to 5 inches of extra legroom compared with standard coach seats.

The Federal Aviation Administration can impose a civil fine up to $25,000 for unruly passengers, though no arrests were made in this case.




  • Barb Jacobson

    She’s not a brat, He’s a jerk. He doesn’t have the right to block her from getting something she paid, who does he think he is? Hopefully United bans him from the airline, and he gets the FAA fine.

    • dimunvi

      She should have let the flight crew handle it and not throw her drink on him but she didn’t and caused the flight to be diverted. fine them both the full amount. Idiots like these will never learn!

    • FlyGirl

      She had a right to sit in the seat she paid for, NOT to encroach on the space and safety of the person behind her. As a former Flight Attendant I’d love to see common courtesy be more common. I am in favor of airlines locking all coach seats, not only to prevent incidents like this, but to increase safety for all passengers. In an emergency, FAA research has proved that unlocked, reclined seats experience greater g-forces allowing you and those around you to be injured or killed by that seat becoming detached. A reclined seat also blocks the quickest evacuation of those passengers in the row behind those reclined seats.

      Be kind…don’t recline.

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