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Flight diverted over petty dispute over legroom

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






Gadget that locks seat recliner sets off spat that diverts flight

You’re sweaty, exhausted and just paid a fortune and forfeited every ounce of human dignity for that tiny seat on that airplane.

Yes, lubed up with plenty of Xanax and booze and stuffed into a smelly confined area, the passengers on just about every commercial airliner in every airport across the world are generally poised at the line of full revolt. Which is precisely why it’s probably unsurprising to anyone who has ventured onto an airliner in the past decade, that a dispute over the most valuable of turf—airline leg room—was enough to divert an entire flight and get two adults hauled off by law enforcement, according to the Associated Press.

It all started when a man was using his laptop in the middle seat in row 12 on United Airlines flight 1462 from Newark to Denver. A long flight and a terrible seat, to be sure. So to keep the woman sitting in front of him from encroaching on his personal space, he used the Knee Defender, a banned device on most commercial airline flights, which when placed under the tray table of the seat in front of you keeps the seat from reclining.

To be sure these people, both of whom are 48 years old, could have handled the matter like the adults that they are. But these are people who have just dealt with TSA and airline customer service. These aren’t rational adults. They’re just humans pushed to the brink. So the flight attendant asked the man to remove the device. The man refused. The woman stood up and chucked a glass of water at the man. Not a great moment for anyone, to be sure.

The incident got so heated the crew decided to divert to Chicago’s O’Hare airport where the two passengers were met and interviewed by law enforcement.

The TSA would not name the passengers and ultimately the incident was deemed a “customer service issue" according to TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein.

The Knee Defender lock costs $22, but is banned by most major U.S. airlines. And based on the results of its use on this flight, that might be a policy worth keeping.

Social media was also giggling about the Knee Defender airline showdown, calling the incident both “petty” and “unsurprising."

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