Now You Can Defend Your Right to In-Flight Comfort. But …

The old adage that there are two sides to every story just doesn’t always hold water. Every so often we come across an issue for which there is a totally rational and justifiable argument on both sides: everyone is right; no one is wrong. Resolving an issue like that is tricky at best. And sometimes just impossible.
So it is with the Knee Defender. This ingenious device — I’m not sure something can be called a “device” if there are no moving parts — slips over each of the two supports of the tray tables in seat backs on a jetliner. And it can literally be locked in place. 

 Once installed, the person seated in front of you cannot recline their seat … thus safeguarding the pathetic amount of leg room with which the airline has grudgingly provided to you. 

I have a personal interest in this. In a few weeks I’ll be on flights of six hours, seven-and-a-half hours, and four hours as I go from Maui to Seattle and Seattle to Paris by way of Reykjavik. Employing a Knee Defender on those flights could make a huge difference during the 18 hours I’m going to be spending in the air. It would be $21.95 well spent and I’m really tempted.

But wait. What about the person in that seat in front of me? Doesn’t paying for that seat include the right to recline it? Seems to me a strong case can be made for that. It’s a quandary. And it could lead to trouble.

In fact, it did. About a week ago, the Knee Defender was the cause of a confrontation on a United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver. A male passenger had employed the gadgets on his tray table and, in so doing, prevented the women seated in front of him from reclining her seat. She took exception, words were exchanged, and things escalated to the point that she doused him with a cup of water. That was enough for the captain, who diverted to Chicago where both passengers were ushered off the plane. 

(How could they not tell us what happened next? Were there shouted recriminations in the passenger lounge at O’Hare? Or did the man and woman sort it all out and end up having dinner together? Somewhere in Hollywood, a writer has already incorporated this incident into a treatment for a film. It’s a romantic comedy starring George Clooney.)

Anyway, I sympathize with those two people. They were both right. The fault, dear reader, is not in their stars. It’s the damn airlines, who mercilessly cram as many of us as possible into their aluminum tubes.

That does not mean I’m excusing the way that particular incident escalated, causing at the very least, minor inconvenience for more than 250 people. Had it been me, I would have removed the Knee Defenders or, even more likely, not used them in the first place. Besides, with my luck, the person in the seat in front of me would turn out to be a guy … and an Olympic weightlifter.