Knee Defender: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

The Knee Defender is a controversial device used by passengers on airplanes. According to WJLA, this little device caused a huge fight on a United Airlines flight earlier this week.

Should you buy one now, or are the Knee Defenders on the fast track to get banned? Check out the video report above, or read on to learn more about why this simple device has made so many people angry.

1. Knee Defender Gives You More Legroom on Airplanes

Learn how to use this simple device in the video above.

The Knee Defender consists of two plastic clips that are roughly the size of a house key. You place the clips in the seatback in front of you on an airplane, against the tray table arms. This prevents the person in front of you from reclining, which gives you more leg room and additional room for working on your laptop in flight.

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2. Knee Defender Caused a Fight on a United Flight

The Knee Defender is in the news this week because it was the cause of a fight between two passengers on a United Airlines flight. Business Insider reports that two passengers on United Flight 1462 got into a fight over the use of the device during the flight. The flight had to be diverted from its original Newark to Denver trajectory, stopping in Chicago because of the altercation.

The passengers have not been named. According to WJLA, the FAA is authorized to impose a civil fine of up to $25,000 for passengers who are unruly during a flight. In this case, however, no arrest was made.

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3. Knee Defender Hasn’t Been Banned by the FAA

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The Knee Defender has not been banned by the FAA. However, the FAA does allow each individual airline to set their own policies regarding the device. USA Today notes that most major airlines have banned the use of the Knee Defender, or any device that limits the seat’s ability to recline.

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4. Knee Defender Was Invented by Ira Goldman

Check out the report above about this passive-aggressive air travel accessory from BBC Radio’s Travel Psychologist.

ABC notes that the man who invented the Knee Defender had a good reason for doing so. Ira Goldman invented the device in order to give himself more room on flights. Ira Goldman’s height has been various reported in the media as 6’3″ or 6’4″, with ABC citing the latter figure as his true height. ABC adds that Goldman has agreed to remove his product from the market if it can be proved that it is unsafe. So far, Goldman hasn’t found any compelling arguments that the Knee Defender poses a danger.

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5. Some People Are Defending the Knee Defender

In an opinion piece for TIME, Bill Saporito extolls the virtues of the Knee Defender, despite complaints from people who say the devices are inherently unfriendly:

“Yes, it’s not the most civil behavior, but United and other airlines brought this about by treating us like cargo. Consider the situation on Flight 1462. United runs 737s, among the smallest in the Boeing fleet, out of Newark to distant places. It’s four hours to Denver from Newark. The coach seats are 17.3 inches wide. The pitch is 31 inches in Economy and 34 inches in the so-called Economy Plus, where the dueling pair was sitting. Economy Plus used to be called by another name, Economy, until the carriers started adding rows and squeezing the space. This fight started because the guy was trying to work on his laptop. You can’t use a laptop when the seat in front of you is in your lap.”

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  1. I would buy one of these in a heartbeat and use it! I’m sick of the person in front of me practically laying In my lap, making my tray table virtually unusable. The reclining feature should be removed from all domestic flights.

    • Reclining is a MUST regardless of whether it’s domestic or international! This device is fine until the person in front of the person who is using it wants to recline their seat which they have every right to do. Use it but when the person in front of you says “I’d like to be able to lay back” then you really have no choice but to remove the clips. Sit straight up or lean back 4 inches, that’s it, that’s all the comfort you can get on an airplane these days. If you don’t like the neighbor reclining in front of you, you should really stick to business or first class flights or maybe consider taking the train, bus or driving yourself. You’re no more important or due comfort or lap top ability than any other passenger. Deal with it!

    • Blame the airlines, not the passenger. They sell a ticket with the presumption you can have a seat that reclines. Until they change that policy, they need to deal with the consequences.

  2. I agree that the reclining feature should be removed. But until they do, if you alter a seat, that someone paid for the use of, they can remove your device. In fact, this should be considered tampering with the airplanes equipment, and be as punishable as disabling any other device on a commercial aircraft.

  3. Don’t buy or use this device unless you are looking to start a fight with the person in the seat ahead of yours, or you want the potential liability for the costs to divert the aircraft. If you want to use this device safely, pay extra and purchase the seat in front of your own. Otherwise, purchase an exit row or bulkhead seat, or upgrade to business or first class.

  4. As a frequent flyer, I feel I can share an unbiased opinion here:
    1) Airlines currently sell a ticket with the expectation of being in seat that can recline. They set that expectation, so they should honor it or change it.
    2) As someone who uses a laptop frequently during flight, and having said laptop almost totally crushed by someone reclining their seat, I can totally understand a passenger’s frustration about having a seat reclined back into their knees.

    I have had this it happen to me, but because of item #1, I just quietly put my laptop away and deal with it. I don’t think I have a right to stop the person in front of me from reclining. That being said, if I am very tall person and the reclining seat will literally be in my knees, I think I can politely ask the person to lean forward a little, or ask a flight attended to work with me on finding another seat. Seriously no need to fight about it, we have bigger issues to deal with in this world.

  5. How much does it cost for people to buy a pair of balls? As a tall person, I don’t want somebody reclining their seat into my knees. But I don’t buy a device for this. I hold their seat up when they try to recline it. They assume it is broken and give up. There have been a couple times when I was too slow, but then I just asked the people to put their seat up and they did. People in this country really need to man up. It’s getting pathetic.