Skip to comments.The Upright and Locked Position
Posted on 08/31/2014 4:51:34 AM PDT by Kaslin
On Aug. 24, United Airlines diverted a Newark-to-Denver flight to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after two passengers got into an argument. It started when a 47-year-old man used a device called the Knee Defender to prevent the 48-year-old woman in front of him from reclining her seat.
According to The Associated Press, a flight attendant told the male passenger that United does not allow the bracketlike gadget. He refused to remove it. The female passenger then threw water at the male passenger, which probably didn't thrill the passengers seated next to him. (He was in the middle seat.) The airliner's crew decided to arrive in Denver with two fewer passengers.
The story made national news because it hit home for so many travelers.
Airlines are flying fuller. Seat space has shrunk. The more crowded planes are the crankier passengers have become. Neither passenger is likely to be praised for his or her tact in dealing with others. As for the man in Row 12, he didn't need to use his people skills -- not when he had the $22 knee-protecting device, a tool custom-made for the passive-aggressive traveler.
Oddly, The Washington Post's Justin Moyer reports, the knee-jerk device was invented by a former aide to Pete Wilson, a Republican former California governor and U.S. senator. According to Bloomberg, the 6-foot-3-inch Ira H. Goldman got the idea in 1998, when he was flying a lot -- and his knees weren't enjoying the experience. On one flight, Goldman discovered that by laying an umbrella across his tray table, he could prevent the seat in front of him from reclining. He later tooled plastic clips that, if placed on a tray table, could keep the seat in front of a passenger in the upright position.
Goldman also invented a card to go along with his device. "Please do not recline your seat," it says. "I have provided you with this card because I have long legs and if you recline your seat you will bang into my knees. I realize that it can be nice to recline one's seat, but I hope you would agree with me that it should not be done at the expense of crushing someone else's knees -- especially if this risk is known from the outset." After some more whining, the card suggests that if inconvenienced, the fellow traveler should "please complain to the airline so that they might be inspired to provide a solution."
There's an ultra-phony close to the note: "Thank you. Have a nice flight."
The thing is that the airlines have a solution for too little legroom. It's called pricing.
United offers Economy Plus -- which, I was surprised to learn, is where the two evicted United Flight 1462 passengers were seated. Economy Plus gives customers an extra 4 inches of legroom. That extra room still wasn't enough.
I tried to get in touch with Goldman, but his website does not include an email address. I tried to send a message on the tortured "contact us" page but have no idea whether it got through. Do I detect a pattern? I believe that I do. The Knee Defender started as one man's way of not looking another person in the eye and figuring out how they could both get to their destination amicably.
I am a journalist. I can grouse with the gusto of a paid professional. And I appreciate a hearty "don't tread on me" spirit. But Goldman's approach is a recipe for air rage, and he knows it. His website instructs customers not to use the device if flight attendants tell them not to. And though I think it is not a hardship to fly in the upright position from Newark to Denver, there are people with back issues who might disagree.
As a onetime Republican aide, Goldman should know better than to blame the airlines. The American public wants cheap airfares. Airlines have given the public what it wants by selling full flights that offer less legroom and smaller seats. Those fares are the reason I can afford to fly cross-country for a weekend. Some people complain that airlines treat passengers like cattle; if so, that's because the public doesn't want to pay to be pampered. In the days when airlines pampered passengers, a smaller percentage of the public flew.
Goldman is engaging in magical thinking if he truly believes that his little cards will do anything to change how airlines operate. After all, jumbo jets may defy the laws of gravity, but the airline industry cannot beat the laws of economics.
Greyhound without the bedbugs (maybe)
I don’t need one of these devices. The person in front of me cannot recline because my knees are pressed into the back of the seat in front of me. That is what happens when you are 6-7. I’ve had someone page the flight attendant when they couldn’t recline and complain that their seat was broken. She looked back at me and told the person “No, it isn’t.”
I would love to see pictures of the two who inconvenienced the many to make sure I am no where near them.
If the trip is 1500 miles or less, I will take extra time and drive. I avoid flying whenever possible.
Paying to he herded like cattle, felt up by rude TSA agents, crammed into a tin can with potentially disease-ridden rude, cranky, travellers, screaming babies, and fat, sweaty pigs who have never exercised a day in their lives, and probably never bathed, either.
Anyone who is stupid enough to expose themselves to todays air travel deserves exactly what they get. I don’t know whether to laugh at them or weep for them for willingly subjecting themselves to such indignity.
Not with DHS flying illegal aliens around the country secretly, and it is not just bedbugs.
Aisle seat works
Same here at 6’3”. I try and be considerate for those sitting around me - and keep my body parts within the width of my seat.
Had my knees banged more than once by folks in front hitting the recline button and then slamming the seat back.
On the second slam I usually say “Excuse me, but that’s my knees you’re hitting”.
When that happens there is not much room for that little serving tray, the back of the seat and my knees.
I know if the Obamas had to fly coach they would have solved the problem like they School Lunches, etc, etc.
The simple answer is if the general public doesn’t mind being cramped in like sardines because the tickets are so cheap...
Then stop making seats that recline.
Just one more creature comfort removed to ensure full airplanes!
Blame gubmint regulation of airlines. Let them charge by size and weight like every other type of cargo.
Airlines have a solution! They want you to reach into your wallet and buy a first class or business class ticket!
A few years ago an airline -- "Midwest Express" -- was inspired to equip all of their airplanes with only first class leather 2 x 2 seating with legroom instead of the usual 3 x 3 with no legroom and provide "gourmet" meals. Airlines can't make much of a profit margin on the cut-price tickets. Midwest might have reduced the capacity by about 1/3 but the passengers they had were paying customers. IIRC, the ticket price from Newark into Milwaukee was roughly the same as the United price into Chicago. My guesstimate was that any airline could do this for about $20 per ticket. But apparently air travel is so price sensitive that passengers and corporate travel departments won't pay an extra $20 for decent accommodations. Midwest Express' business model didn't survive long after the post-9/11 recession.
I usually drive or take the train now. If I want to go somewhere that I can't possibly drive to -- like Hawaii or Europe -- I use my frequent flyer miles to upgrade the ticket.
The airlines can probably explain this somehow but I don't see how adding a 4,000 mile round trip from Detroit to L.A. can lower a price.
Anomaly? Nope. I was flying from Newark to Greenville, SC. Fare was ~$650, connecting through Charlotte. If I flew only to Charlotte and drove the rest of the way? $970. Somehow adding a round trip to Greenville made the price go down.
To me, it seems the airlines price by what someone will pay, not what it costs the airline to operate. Business travelers and their routes get hammered.
Sorry pal, I paid for my seat space, so I get to use your’s too. /s
I’ve heard that some foreign airlines have seats that recline by shifting the seat portion forward, rather than moving the seatback to the rear. That way the person who wants to recline pays for it with their own legroom and not somebody else’s.
I always try to get an aisle seat because my shoulders are wider than the seat. That way I can lean into the aisle. That’s one reason I like flying Southwest - no service carts to bang into my shoulder from behind.
I’m 120 lbs. I’ve had men spill into my set while I’ve had to sit my rump halfway up the window wall. I fly first on long flights but not for domestic hops. Thank you for being considerate because there are a lot who aren’t.
I may have gotten that economy price but I don’t think it means I have to perform a stationary twerk in flight!
Fight or Flight???
A whole new meaning in this modern age of technology.
True words. We flew to Arizona, first time in a long time since we’ve flown, and decided that would be the last if we can help it. We’ll take the time and drive.
I love planes, love flying. But I hate the TSA idiots and the hassle of airports. On top of that my wife of 43 years refuses to get on another plane (she is afraid of flying. Last time she was on a plane was 1988).
I have long-length thighbones and flying is an experience in complete discomfort for me. However, in the case of this United flight, I think the problem was not knee pain, but the top half of the seat invading his upper torso comfort zone. My understanding is that the man in question wanted to use his laptop and that’s impossible with it shoved up under your throat.
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