Friday 23 August 2019

€16 gadget sparks 'right to recline' row among airline passengers

Some stressed passengers have resorted to using the Knee Defender to protect their space on cramped aircraft.
Some stressed passengers have resorted to using the Knee Defender to protect their space on cramped aircraft.
The knee defender airline seat device

Allison Bray

Aer Lingus has assured customers they won't have to fight for the right to recline despite soaring sales of a controversial travel gadget that prevents passengers from leaning back in their seats.

A device called the Knee Defender - which boasts the motto "standing up for the right of the tall guy to sit down" - sparked an air rage incident aboard an United Airlines Flight in America last week.

A 48-year-old female passenger who was unable to recline in her seat dumped a glass of water on a passenger who was using the gadget.

The male passenger who was seated behind her refused to remove the portable device - which can be attached to a seatback table to prevent the passenger in front from leaning backwards.

Both passengers were thrown off the flight when a mid-air row ensued, forcing the flight, which was bound for Denver, Colorado from Newark, New Jersey to divert to Chicago.

While the device is legal in Ireland, it has not sparked any air rage incidents here, the Irish Aviation Authority said.

But that doesn't mean the devices are welcome here either.

An Aer Lingus spokesman said it's "considering the situation" but hasn't banned the device yet, although "passengers are entitled to their comfort and have the right to recline if they choose."

Ryanair doesn't have seats which recline and has no intention of fitting them in the future, a spokesman said.

But a spokesman for American Airlines, which has banned the anti-recline device on its daily flights from Dublin to the US, said: "It's a shame when passengers take umbrage against fellow passengers when it's a question of using manners."

He added that etiquette also applies when passengers vie for arm-rest space with fellow passengers.

The air rage incident has now sparked a heated debate in the US where most major airlines have now banned the device.

The device is dubbed "a special favourite of tall frequent fliers" and described as being "as ingenious as it is devious," by luxury travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler.

The simple plastic device, which retails online for €16.65 ($21.95), has been on the market since 2003 but only recently came to prominence.

It was the brainchild of former US Congress staff member Ira Goldman, who stands at 6'3".

Irish Independent

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