Fight Over A Reclining Seat Forces United Flight Diversion

Flight 1.5 hours late because two 48-year-olds can't be reasonable

LOS ANGELES - JAN 15: A United Airlines 777 on approach to LAX on January 15, 2012 in Los Angeles.  The Boeing 777 is the larges
Shutterstock / Jose Gil
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."

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Shoving your seatback into someone's lap along with their tray table is about as selfish and inconsiderate an act as I can imagine. I never recline my seat unless the seat behind me is either empty or occupied by a small child. Personally, I think reclining seats in cfrowded economy sections should be banned. If I'm on a long flight in a crowded economy section, I can do very well with my iPod, a neck pillow, and just leaning against the seat back (or against the window if I have a window seat) I had an incident two years ago on Spirit when, in midflight from Florida to LA, this thug in front of me took advantage of what was obviously a broken reclining mechanism and, with no warning at all, slammed his seatback into my knee, hurting me. When I asked him to move it up, he said
"move your kee." But I had no place to move it to, a female passenger was curled up in the seat next to me, sound asleep But not for long). The seat back was literally hurting me so I braced myself against my own seatback, applied both feet to the back of his seat, and, taking advantage of my leverage, pushed it back into its orignal position. He kept trying to push it back but couldn't because I had it blocked. The flight attendant in charge refused to intervene. When he threatened to have police meet the plane at LAX, I urged him to go ahead, looking forward to seeing a guy in his 40s or 50s deliberately causing injury to a 71 year old man charged with felonious assault against a senior citizen. The thug then (I am not making this up) asked me if I wanted to go into the lavatory with him and duke it out in there. By this time, the whole plane (it was a late night flight but not a redeye) had been woken up. The flight attendant then suddenly remembered that there was a whole row of empty seats in the back. I quickly moved back there.

I reported the incident to Spirit management and the FAA. Not long afterwards, Spirit eliminated reclining on all its seats. I've had my issues with Spirit, but for that, I say God bless them! If you can't manage a flight without reclining and making someone else miserable and even hurting them, you should find another way to travel. I flew 9 hours nonstop last May on United from Chicago to Honolulu and it never even occurred to me to recline my seat.

There have bneen other times when someone in front of me began using the recliner and was blocked by my knee. I explained politely that this wouldn't work, and I never got an argument, and the seat was always moved back up.

As for the woman who threw the cup of water, I'd love to pick her up and throw her into a lake, or better, a dirty pond. As for those Knee Defenders, God bless the guy who invented them. I hope it makes him a bilionnaire!

October 08 2014 at 4:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The lady has a right to recline if she wants to, the moron who put the device on the seat deserved to have more than water thrown on him.

September 16 2014 at 10:03 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply


September 16 2014 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is NOT people being reasonable it is the lousy airlines pinching an inch or so out of coach seating so they cal put in an extra row of seats.....worthless bastards!

September 04 2014 at 1:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Both of these passengers were already in Economy Plus. United markets and sells these seats, and this product, at a hefty surcharge to offer not only extra legroom BUT additional recline on the seats. The man in the back already had 4 extra inches of legroom. The woman in front, however, had paid a couple hundred extra dollars to get 3 or 4 extra inches of seat recline. By reclining, she was simply using the "product" (the seat) exactly as it had been sold to her, and using the added recline that she paid good money for. No passenger has the right to modify airline equipment to keep it from working the way it is designed to work. And the rear passenger -- who HAD already received the extra legroom he paid for -- and no right to keep the woman in front from utilizing and enjoying the extra seat recline SHE had paid for. So unless he planned on reimbursing her for that Economy Plus surcharge that paid for that extra recline, he had no right to impede her using her seat in any legitimate way she chose.

August 31 2014 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I recently returned from Florida and the flight was a full flight. An African American grandfather had knee surgery in Florida and was taking the flight with family. Their tickets were bought last minute so they ended up not sitting together, each member of the family was in a different row. The grandfather had an aisle seat. The gentleman in front of him who bought his ticket months earlier reclined his seat and nearly hit the scarred knee. The grandfather's whole family got involved, refusing to take their seats. The stewards tried their best to calm the situation but the grandson demanded that the guy who reclined be thrown off the plane. When the stewards refused the grandson claimed "racial discrimination". The grandfather and his family were about to be thrown off the flight for refusing to listen to the attendants and causing a situation on the plane. The grandfather should have booked a flight where he knew he could have gotten a seat where he would have had a seat in the front row of the economy section where there are no seats in front of him. Finally the woman in front of the reclining gentleman offered to change seats with the grandfather which they did. The flight ended up 30 minutes delayed which caused problems with those with connecting flights.

August 31 2014 at 6:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to tedski0430's comment

racial discrimination!!!!!!! OMG

September 04 2014 at 11:35 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

racial discrimination!!!!!! OMG

September 04 2014 at 11:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I had a guy in front of me who reclined not to rest, but to have a clear view of my wife's legs.
He very obviously kept staring in between the new space created by the recline ( that made ME squished) and ogling.
Admiring and Peeping Tom can have a fine line. To do it at MY inconvenience besides makes it a "Dissing on me" situation.
Well, darn if that "pesky prostate problem" doesn't seem to be aggravated by stress, ( wink) So.........
I had to make FREQUENT chair-bumping trips to the rest room. ( Always "politely" apologizing... "Oops, so sorry. Medical problem.")
About the sixth of my "expected" 10 or 15 trips, he reset the chair up.
Oddly, by sheer chance I uh guess, my prostate started behaving.

August 31 2014 at 7:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If there was a law against being rude and disrespectful and for passengers living in a bubble on a flight this lady who reclined the seat should get a life sentence. It is uncomfortable enough on flights and then others have to put up with jerks like this lady and others who recline their seats. Sure you "can" recline the seat, sure you can talk loud on your cell phone and play music openly on your pc and other irritating things as it is your "right" and darn it you are going to do it. Then if someone objects the law or "order in the sky" protects the jerks not the victims. This whole story is disgusting and the wrong person got into trouble due to a rude and jerky passenger. I can tell you when I get on a plane and the idiot puts the seat back, they should be prepared for me to bump and push my knee into the seat until they move it back. I used to ask these folks to put the seat up but these people live in their own world and it did no good.

August 29 2014 at 9:17 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to denver88's comment

Hey Den, We'll have to agree to disagree. Theseat was bought and paid for and is being operated it in the manner intended.
She paid for the seat, not the dim-wit behind her,

September 29 2014 at 11:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

You all need to get a grip!!! 100 years ago, that trip would've taken 2 or 3 days by rail and possibly longer by car. If you can't survive 4-6 hours on a flight, you shouldn't travel at all!!! I used to average 100,000 miles per year or more for business, but I gave up flying in 1998 after 15 years of almost continuous flying partly because of people who weren't courteous or tolerant of other people (and their kids). People who felt "entitled!" Now I have a relaxing drive for a few days while listening to audiobooks and thumb my nose at the TSA!!! I give my miles away as wedding presents! After 16 years of gifting, I think I still have a quarter million miles left!!! LOL I suggest that all you people with kids fly as much and as often as you want!!! I also suggest that if you have the opportunity to fly business or First Class that you fly in cut offs and T Shirts. I hate those that feel entitled...

August 29 2014 at 5:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to greensat's comment

I'll take those 1/4 million miles off your hand!

September 04 2014 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'll take those 250,000 miles off of your hands!!! does one "thumb their nose at the TSA" on a Hawaiian vacation???

September 04 2014 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to puzlslvr41's comment
Oahu Hawaii

Perhaps greensat lives in Hawaii, like me. (BTW, I'll take that 250K miles if he's not using them.)

October 09 2014 at 7:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

We are not debating here why airlines are not offering more legroom. They are maximizing their profits and squeezing the most they can. The price of tickets today are far less than they were decades ago. It used to be a luxury not affroded by many. It is a crowded bus in the air today, opened to the masses. But let me make this clear to all who read this here. The Leg Defenders are NOT permitted on board. So don't make the inventor rich thinking you are going to get away with it. When a seat has a button to recline it is the right of the passenger who is seated in that seat to recline it. The airlines did not put it there for nothing. Crews will defend the victimized passenger trying to recline. Exceptions are made at meal times. If you have a laptop, adjust. Or buy a Business Class seat. Anyone getting aggressive will be met with the authorities on the ground. Either you adapt or you lose. Or do not fly. There are ships too. But they charge more than a business class seat. For the inlanders, drive or go by rail! So where is the problem?

August 29 2014 at 4:36 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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