Leg room is an ongoing problem on modern aircraft, and one of the pet peeves of travelers is suddenly having seatback in front come shifting toward their knees and seeing the tray table drive into their stomachs. A company has taken to selling a device that locks in place and keeps the front seat from reclining.
As you might imagine, this can lead to hard feelings and even hostility between passengers. Now, there has been the first documented case of air knee rage. A fight broke out between two middle-aged passengers over one of these so-called Knee Defenders and caused United Airlines Flight 1462 to divert and have the pair leave the aircraft, according to the Associated Press.
The flight was en route from Newark, New Jersey to Denver. A man in the economy-plus section, in which passengers pay extra for additional legroom, had placed one of the $21.95 gadgets in place, according to USA Today. A United spokesperson told the paper that the airline does not allow the use of devices that could prevent a seat from reclining.
The man in row 12 was using a laptop on the tray table, according to AP. The woman ahead of him complained and an attendant told him to remove the Knee Defender. The man refused, so the woman turned around and threw a cup of water at him.
Apparently things got even more heated, so the pilot diverted the flight to Chicago's O'Hare airport and the pair was taken off the plane. They had to speak with both TSA officers and Chicago police. Authorities ultimately called the matter "a customer service issue" and declined to take further action. TSA refused to tell AP the names of the passengers.
However, as all this was going on, the plane left Chicago and finished its flight to Denver, behind schedule one hour and 38 minutes, according to AP.
An airline spokesperson said that no arrests were made. Each of the two could have faced an FAA civil fine of up to $25,000. Hopefully they were, instead, put into time-out until they could control their actions and review kindergarten rules for sharing.
According to what the inventor of the Knee Defender told USA Today, "as far as I know this is the first time anything like this has happened."