By now, you’ve probably heard about United Airlines Flight 1462, which was bound from Newark to Denver on Sunday. But instead of heading directly to the Mile High City, the Boeing 737 was forced to land at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport mid-flight.
The reason? Two unnamed passengers in Economy Plus -- which boasts an extra four inches of legroom on United -- couldn’t make nice. A male passenger installed a $22 plastic device called Knee Defender onto his tray table, preventing the woman in front of him from reclining her seat.
A flight attendant asked him to remove the device -- something purveyors of Knee Defender recommend complying with if asked -- but he refused. The female passenger, incensed, tossed a cup of water at the man, which is when flight crew made the decision to divert the plane and unload the unruly passengers.
It was a good show of incivility all around. And while both passengers could use a refresher from Emily Post, I’m wondering if this type of “air rage” is only going to grow as airlines continue to nickel-and-dime frustrated passengers with fees all the while shrinking seats and service.
The solution, some airlines have decided, is not to give passengers the option to recline. Budget carriers Allegiant, Spirit and Ryanair, along with Air France, have instituted “fixed recline” seats on their short-haul flights. Monarch Airlines, another budget carrier based in the U.K., also announced doing away with reclining seats because 90 percent of its customers said reclining seats caused more harm than good.
Such refereeing may be the only solution to keeping grown, frustrated travelers from having toddler-like meltdowns.
Meanwhile, Ira Goldman, the inventor of Knee Defender, isn’t apologetic for his product. "United could make seats that do not recline, but they have not chosen to do so," he told USA Today. "In the meantime, the Knee Defender says right on it: 'Be courteous. Do not hog space. Listen to the flight crew.' Apparently that is not what happened here."