The Battle for Legroom Continues

You might’ve heard about the United flight that had to make an emergency landing in Chicago earlier this week because of a heated argument between two passengers. What’s peculiar about the whole situation is that the conflict was over one passenger’s using ‘knee defenders’ to prevent the woman in front of him from reclining and restricting his legroom. The flight attendant onboard asked the man to remove the devices (which are supposedly prohibited by United), and he refused. The woman then threw a cup of water in his face, and the plane had to make the emergency landing. What I find so ridiculous about this is that both passengers were seated in Economy Plus, where seats had extra legroom and recline- so there would have been no need for these knee defenders in the first place. The whole story from Jaunted is below:


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.

Frankly, I can’t help thinking that United (and the other airlines on which instances like this have occurred) has brought this upon itself. Seats on planes are getting closer together, and passengers are fed up with it. Of course, that’s no excuse to make the person in front of you miserable for four hours. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of these seemingly absurd incidents, and the airlines need to catch on before we all prepare for battle.

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