Seat reclining fight in the news

Soooo, this is interesting. NBC reported a story on the Today Show about a passenger using a Knee Defender, which keeps the8-26-14-1 passenger in front of them from reclining in their seat.  The man was using the Knee Defender while he had his laptop on the tray table (the Knee Defender was attached to the tray table).   The United flight attendant asked the passenger to remove the Knee Defender but he declined.  That apparently made the woman in front of him mad enough to throw a cup of water at the guy.  This caused the flight to be diverted and the two passengers were kicked off the flight.

There is a wide range of opinions when it comes to seat reclining.  In a 2010 post I wrote it was my opinion that reclining your seat was not rude.  If someone reclined their seat you could get that space back by reclining your own seat.  As you can read in the comments of that post, not everyone agrees. A poll I did following that post had mixed results, to say the least.

Then in 2012 I had a change of heartI was on a flight and about to open my laptop when the gentleman in front of me threw back his seat.  If my laptop was open I’m certain it would have been broken.  So with that being said I can see why the person in the Today Show story had a concern about the seat in front of him reclining.  However, using a device to prevent the person from reclining such as the Knee Defender is going about this the wrong way. In fact, I’m surprised that devices like that are allowed at all! And whether we agree or not, you pretty much always have to do what a flight attendant tells you.

What should have happened is the women wanting to recline should have asked the gentleman if it was ok for her to recline.  If he wanted to use the laptop on the tray table he should have courteously said that if she reclines it would make his work space crammed and ask if she would be willing not to recline.  If she insisted on reclining the gentleman should have taken the high road and used the laptop without the tray table and used his laptop in his lap (or perhaps invest in a laptop stand instead of Knee Defenders).

Readers, what are your thoughts on all of this? Should Knee Defenders be allowed on flights?


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  1. As long as my seat reclines I will recline it. The seat moves people need to get over it. I do think all the majors should reemphasize the ban of these devices in light of the fact that over 100 people were delayed at least 98 minutes because of this nonsense.

  2. pax can use any device as long as it does not affect other people. this is so basic i dont know what the guy with laptop was thinking, he deserves to be taken off plane.

  3. Of course it’s good to be courteous and try to work out the best way to coexist in a crowded space. And of course it’s good to recline slowly in case the passenger behind you has placed something in the path of your seat.

    But the seat reclines for a reason, and the airline puts the control within reach of the seat’s occupant, and out of reach of the passenger behind, for a reason. It would be possible to put the control farther aft on the seat so that both passengers could reach it–and the linkage would be shorter and therefore slightly cheaper and lighter–but they don’t.

    Everyone accepts that passengers of size have to buy two seats. If you want to use part of the seat next to you, you have to buy that seat, and being too big to fit in your own seat isn’t a justification for imposing on someone else. If you want to control the seat in front of you, you should have to buy that seat too. Being too tall isn’t a justification for imposing on someone else, either–much less thinking that your wish to open your laptop trumps someone else’s wish to relax. Airlines make bigger seats available, with more pitch, for more money. If you want more space than your ticket entitles you to, you can buy more.

  4. Knee Defenders? How absurd – this should be treated as a WMD. Not only should it be banned but the person taken fir questioning for attempting to destroy an aircraft’s systems. If the guy has the money to invest in such stupid devices, he should spend it wisely to go on a private jet instead or better still fly RyanAir where there are no reclining seats and/or seat back trays to worry about. He can also pay the ridiculous early boarding fee but scramble to a middle seat last since a 100 other passengers have all paid for the same service to be last from a coach at the aircraft stairs!

  5. The seats are made to recline, and I cannot sleep without the seat being back, regardless if I have a neck pillow or not. Some of the seats, when they recline, require you to push back hard to make them move. I do not ever intentionally “Throw” my seat back, but sometimes when you are trying to push, it just finally ends up going and seeming like you are throwing it back.

  6. I am all for being courteous to others and usually only recline my seat partially–if at all–but I am *allowed* to recline my seat and don’t think that I should have to lose that option because of someone behind me. I’m sorry but I’m not going to ask permission to recline my seat. What if the person says No? Am I really prepared to abide by the answer?

    As someone else said, if you need the space THAT BADLY there are other options–seats with more legroom (Economy Comfort, exit rows), business or first class.

  7. I have had several occasions where my laptop was nearly broken by people reclining quickly. I realize that sometimes it’s the seat, but more often it’s a a clueless and/or inconsiderate fellow traveler. That said, I don’t believe I’m entitled to impose my will on the person in front of me. Many exit row seats do not recline or only recline minimally ( will give you this information). If I know I’m going to need to work on a flight, I try my best to secure a seat behind one of these rows. 2nd row exit rows are a beautiful thing – extra legroom and the seat ahead doesn’t fully recline.

  8. I’m 6’5″… let me tell you that I cannot “reclaim the space” by reclining. When you recline you injure my knees. My knees cannot lean back. No use getting huffy about it when I request you to raise your seat again.

    Besides I paid for my 30″ saet pitch and I deserve to use it.

  9. Stephanie (and others) are right. If you really need a seat to NOT recline, buy one behind a seat that does not recline. Otherwise, as the saying goes, ‘You bought your ticket, you take your chances.” And of course Knee Defenders should not be allowed.

    That being said, I personally don’t recline my seat. I actually don’t think it makes things much more comfortable for me, and I know it cramps the person behind. But I fully believe that IF I wanted to recline, it is my choice and my choice alone. The controls were put on my seat, not the seat behind. I can CHOOSE to be nice about it, but again, my choice.

  10. The problem with reclining a seat is that it takes space from someone else.

    I wish that the seat bottom could move (fore and aft) so that the bottom moves forward as the seat reclines. Then reclining a seat would take less space from the person behind.

    I personally try to avoid fully reclining my seat.

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