United States: Air Rage in the Friendly Skies Forces Plane to Divert

Airlines and Aviation

A flight is diverted after 2 passengers get into a heated argument over the use Knee Defender, a device which prevents passengers in front from reclining their seats. Both are ejected from the plane for questioning.

A passenger flying United Airlines from Newark, New Jersey, to Denver, Colorado, on 26 August 2014 employed a device called Knee Defender to prevent the passenger in front of him from reclining her seat.

When a flight attendant asked him to remove the device, the passenger refused. An argument ensued. The passenger in front stood up and threw water at the passenger in back.

The pilot decided to divert the plane to Chicago’s O’Hare Field, where the 2 passengers were escorted off the plane by Chicago Police and TSA officers.

The flight continued on its way to Denver, arriving 1 hour and 48 minutes behind schedule without the 2 passengers.

There was no mention as to the reaction of the other passengers (if I had been on the flight, I would NOT have been very happy) or if they would be compensated for the inconvenience and delay.

And what about the money involved? That unscheduled stop in Chicago obviously cost the airline some money. And unruly passengers CAN be fined as much as US$25,000!

Cattle Class

All of which begs the question: are airlines trying to stuff too many passengers into their planes? Air rage seems to be becoming more and more common in recent years. 

Is it because passengers are becoming more selfish – or less patient? Or is it because airplanes are becoming less comfortable – and air travel more stressful?

And which passenger deserves more consideration – the passenger trying to relax in comfort or the passenger wanting to work on a laptop?

I can understand both passengers’ points of view. If there is a recline function on my seat, why can’t I use it? On the other hand, if you are causing someone else discomfort, what should you do? 

I have had passengers in front of me violently jerk their seats back, hitting me squarely in the knees without warning. Surely a bit of consideration for others is called for.

And if you think airplane seats lack leg room, try a Greyhound Bus. I took a trip by bus recently, and the seat in front of my was pushing against my knees, and it hadn’t even been reclined.

Fortunately the bus wasn’t full. There was nobody in front, next to, or behind me. If there had been, it would have been a very unpleasant ride.

Skyrocketing Sales

Sales of the device, which retails for US$21.95, have skyrocketed since the incident. But most US airlines discourage their use or ban them out right.

Two airlines – Spirt and Allegiant – have solved the problem by disabling the recline function on seats. But both are discount carriers with very limited ‘pitch’.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has no policy as to the use of Knee Guards in flight. But they are banned while planes are taxiing, landing, or taking off because of safety concerns.

What’s interesting is that the passengers were sitting in Economy Plus, which offers more leg room than Economy.

I splashed out recently on a similar upgrade (but on another airline) and paid roughly double the price of an Economy Class ticket for the privilege. 

I would have to say that BOTH passengers had a legitimate grievance. The woman had a right to recline her seat, and the man had a right to work at his computer.

When push comes to shove, however, splashing another passenger with water WAS pushing the envelope …  I await more information on how this story develops.

Passenger Feedback

This is what Matthew Blake of Singapore posted on The Straits Times website:

“I’m 184cm, fly economy a lot, and generally aware of those around me. I don’t recline fully, but if they guy in front of me does, I live with it… on longer haul flights I may change my opinion, but I’d be vehemently opposed to an airline allowing these and someone behind me deciding how I can use my seat and applaud the woman on United who threw a drink on the jerk who did…

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