For Air Travelers: The Knee Defender

Here is a new invention that many air travelers have longed for. The Knee Defender is a piece of plastic that attaches to the tray table of the seat in front of you, and once attached limits the degree to which the person in front of you can recline their seat. Some people feel quite strongly about this; in response to this travel column, one person said:

Personally, I’m 6’2", so I feel the pain of those who have had their knees bashed. I’d rather talk to the person in front of me and politely ask that they not fully recline, but as a backup plan for when that doesn’t work I think I’ll be buying one of these. How say the Teeming Millions?

I say bring it on, I’d crush your knees.

Want more room? Buy first class.

Not being a sufficiently frequent traveler to have loads of upgrades available, and not being VP level or above, first class is not really an option. I try to sit in bulkhead or exit rows when possible, but that doesn’t always happen.

A piece on NPR today quoted the figure of 3 out of 4 passenger fights on domestic flights are due to disagreements over reclining seats. I’m not a physically confrontational person, but there have been times I’ve been sore tempted to smack the person in front of me upside the head when they smash their seat backwards without a glance or thought.

And World Eater, it sounds like you’re exactly the kind of flyer that led to this invention.

I’m rarely angry at ignorant posters – but for you I’ll make an exception. Bring it on? I’m friggin HUGE, man! You’d best be careful who you’re leaning back on, or you’re liable to find yourself in serious trouble.


In most cases I would be willing to comply if someone requested I not recline my seat, as long as it was clear that it would cause harm or unreasonable discomfort to the person behind me.

I would take a dim view of another passenger sabotaging my seat though.

I think it’s silly that I’m not allowed to recline my seat as far as the manufacturers have allowed. You want to get mad? Get mad at Boeing, not at me.

You asked what people thought, that’s what I think.

WE, your consideration for your fellow man is controlled by a mechanical device? Isn’t that rather shallow?

Keep in mind what forum we’re in before you start puffing that chest.

I’ll say again, under almost all circumstances, I have the right to recline the chair back as far as it will go. Baring some lady with a baby on her lap, or an elderly person who can’t bend their knee, I don’t see the problem.

Might as well move this to the pit now.

To answer your question John, no, I’d probably not buy one as it seems that would likely just cause a confrontation. I’ve had strangers dump their head into my lap before and ass a result I either just put the seat back part way or turn around and ask before I recline it any further.

Just because someone “is permitted” to do something doesn’t make it right but I’d sure like to see common decency be the answer instead of some artificial restraint.

I’ve never understood why people feel the need to recline their seats, especially when they know the effect it has on the person behind them. Doesn’t seem to matter the time of day or night, or the length of the flight. As soon as the plane is at altitude, a number of folk feel the need to recline.

Personally, I’m 6’3" and I never recline if the seat behind me is occupied. I have taught my children that doing so is unnecessary and rude. YMMV.

I don’t get into arguments over it. Just another of the many routine discourtesies and examples of selfishness you encounter so regularly in our society. Of course, I may accidentally bang into the back of the chair a time or two when going to the john, or reaching for my carry-on.

World Eater, you’re absolutely right that the seat was designed to recline that much. However, given that the seat pitch for economy class on the same model of airplane can vary by as much as 5", depending on airline and flag, that means that on one airline when you put your seat back we’re all happy, and on another you’ve just crushed my knees. Yes, it’s the airline’s fault, but the CEO of USAir is not sitting in front of me, you are. And I don’t believe it is “silly” to have some minimum regard for the people around you. YMMV.

World Eater,

I’ve been that lady with a baby on her lap and before no smoking on domestic airlines, the jerk in front of me who reclined his seat as far back as it would go was also smoking a cigar. I’m also a tall woman with long legs. Thirty years later, men are still throwing their seats back as soon as they can with out any consideration for the passengers behind them. If I had a chance to design airplane seats, they would all have one position – straight up. Planes are for travel, not relaxing. Next time, take a look behind you before you throw that seat back.

Funny how for some people, common courtesy is a one-way street. You be courteous to me, dammit!

If I recline my seat, it’s usually such a slight amount, the person behind me probably doesn’t even notice. But I don’t like to recline. In fact, I’ve been in seats that I wished sat up straighter.

Dinsdale, what’s not to understand? It’s more comfortable.

The person in front of me has fully reclined on almost every flight I’ve ever been on, it’s a normal part of traveling, no big deal. Unless there is an unusual circumstance, or the person specifically asked me, I’ll recline as far as I can go.

If the planes are uncomfortable, complain to the people that build them.

Well believe it or not, I’m not advocating reclining until I lay on my back as I blow cigar smoke in your child’s face and cackle maniacally. I’ve flown a good deal, and I’ve never had a woman with a baby sitting behind me. If and when that happens, I’ll most likely keep my seat forward as that is the right thing to do. If though, like 99% of the time, there is a normal Joe Schmoe sitting behind me, I’ll recline away.

world Eater,

Have you ever looked before you reclined? Or did you just wait to see if anybody yelped in pain or asked for help cleaning up the soda that just got dumped.

Of course I look to see who is sitting behind me, what kind of a question is that?


Never heard a yelp of pain, and I’ve never yelped in pain when someone has put the seat down on me.


I ease the seat back very slowly, but luckily I have eyes and can see if their tray is down. I always pull it back up when we eat, and don’t put it back down until they are finished.

Anything else?

Of course I look to see who is sitting behind me, what kind of a question is that?


Never heard a yelp of pain, and I’ve never yelped in pain when someone has put the seat down on me.


I ease the seat back very slowly, but luckily I have eyes and can see if their tray is down. I always pull it back up when we eat, and don’t put it back down until they are finished.

Anything else?

Here are some tips

Personally, I think the seats should be redesigned so that they don’t recline at all. Either that, or they should do away with a few seats and give everyone a little more room. I was trying to use my laptop on a recent flight when the person ahead of me reclined. When she did so, there was no longer room to keep the lap top open, as the monitor part was unable to open fully due to the position of the seat. It’s incredibly hard to read a report when the monitor is sitting below eye level and slanting downward. It’s not as though reclining in one makes anyone that much more comfortable.