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Have No Fear, Knee Defender is Here!

August 15, 2007 | Posted in: Travel Tips

It looks as though the roll-out of the Dreamliner has hit another snag, and Boeing is seeing a direct affect on its financial standing.

If you’re like me, you’ve experienced that moment when the impolite man, woman, or child sitting in front of you on the airplane reclines their seat back and jams your own tray table into your knees. You spend the rest of the flight supporting the tray table, trying to stretch your knees, and basically feeling miserable.

Well, fear not! Hope has finally arrived for the tall and the knee-pain oriented travelers of the world. At least that’s what the makers of the Knee Defender claim…

“With Knee Defender, the ‘Tall Guy’ tall men and tall women, both can now use a simple, convenient, pocket-sized device to help defend against most flying seatbacks…”

I like the sound of any airplane comfort gadget that fancies itself a superhero. I’m going to pick up a Knee Defender, and I’ll let you know how it works… while obviously respecting the rights of the person in front of me to snooze in my lap…

30 Responses to “Have No Fear, Knee Defender is Here!”

  1. Rick Seaney says:

    I had never seen this product before and to be honest it just made me chuckle that someone came up with such a crazy idea. I love how inventive people are.
    The point is not really this wacky little product, its about etiquette. To be honest I actually look behind myself when I recline and if the person is on a laptop or something I don’t recline at all or just do it slightly.
    It seems common courtesy to do so, that said I have had several just fire back the seat and launch my laptop into the row behind and have been none to pleased about it …

  2. j. f. kadlec says:

    you miss the point when you refer to the “impolite” person in front of you, and tout a knee defender. it is not that person’s fault that you have no knee room, it is the fault of the purchasing airline. boeing doesn’t care how much knee room you have, if the airline wants to give you a decent pitch of 34″ they can purchase the plane that way.

    bitch about the airline. not the person in front of you. travel with the airline which gives you an inch or two inches more pitch.

    perhaps the biggest offender is united airlines (if you are not a really frequent flyer and can’t get their first couple of rows)so just warn people not to fly them. don’t go trying to sell something to punish the person in front of you…..try to punish the airline.

  3. Jeff Ehorn says:

    I think the “knee defender” is one of the dumbest products out there. At least AA, CO, and NW have banned them. For a longer flight with 30-32″ of pitch (on average), you need to recline to at least be a little bit more comfortable. You can shift your knees to accommodate someone else reclining their seat. I’m 6′ 1″ and I know that Y class is cramped.. but seriously.. this is a dumb invention and all airlines should ban it.

  4. Palal says:

    These are banned at least on CO, AA and NW. See Flyertalk for threads on this. I hope the person in front of you does something.

  5. Richard Serbin says:

    Obviously the ideal sol’n. would be a decent seat pitch but given that we want low fares, the airlines need to set seat pitches which allow them to offer competitive fares while maximizing revenue. Most passengers are occasional fliers and haven’t a clue about seat pitch. They only look at price. This forces all the others to conform to stay competitive.

    Given the above, the only partial practical sol’n during at least part of the flt. is to require all seat backs to be in the full upright position during meal service.

    Some airlines are offering Coach+ which for an xtra charge gives you greater pitch.

  6. Jannette says:

    I am a 6 foot tall female and unfortunately – until that lotto jackpot materializes – forced to fly coach whenever I travel home to Europe. Clearly, nobody can possibly be comfortable in a 17 x 30 inch space for 11+ hours. But I sure don’t think that preventing my 3 inch recline is the answer either. Sometimes it is the only thing that will make it possible to endure 15 more minutes on a horrible “cattle call”.

    The device will not replace common courtesy and manners in any case. And, it certainly should not be used as another tool to impose your (clearly superceding) needs on me. I already struggle enough with the grossly overweight person next to me who inevitably spills over into my seat and thinks that’s OK. Or the person with small kids, who pays little or nothing to take them on-board and then decide the galleys, exit areas and aircraft isles become their personal “kids zone” – complete with blankets and toys.

    Need I go on? :-) A down-vote for me on this gadget.

  7. Charlie says:

    This gizmo has been available for some time now. I’m not tooo concerned about it because I mostly fly CO which, as was mentioned before, has issued a policy against them. I’m sure if an airline doesn’t have a policy on the books strictly prohibiting their use, it is probably left up to the FAs to enforce. If the reclined seat of a passenger in front of you is so bothersome, try to choose a bulkhead which has no seat in front or exit row where the recline of the seat in front of you is limited. Usually these seats are pre-assigned to elites but as elites are occasionally upgraded they can sometimes be assigned during web checkin or at the airport, depending on the airline. CO generally opens up most vacant seats to anyone regardless of status at the 24 hour mark. Additionally, there is a final “upgrade sweep” done at three hours before departure so you can go online, or if you are at the airport that early check there, to try to improve your seat.

  8. Wallace Wright says:

    There is a real simple solution to this. Don’t sit in the back of the plane, sit up front just as I do.

  9. VeniceFLmom says:

    I NEVER recline my seat because I hate it when people recline in front of me. It would be nice to support airlines which offer more legroom, but we don’t all live in areas where we have the luxury of choice. I feel thankful when I can get a decent schedule, so I certainly can’t be picky about airline. While I agree that the airlines are certainly at the root of the problem, passengers could certainly do their part by showing some courtesy to fellow passengers to try to make the best of the situation.

  10. patti says:

    This is silly and rude. The person in front of you has just as much right to recline as you do. It’s part of what you pay for when you buy the seat. If you don’t want someone reclining into your space, book a bulkhead seat. These “Knee Defender” devices do nothing other than create friction and hostility between passengers, and give the buyers a false sense of entitlement.

  11. Brett Sorge says:

    I am 6’3″ so this is an issue that I take to heart. Unfortunately everytime someone is pushing back their seat they are usually well under 6′ and just don’t appreciate the problem people like myself face. Lets face it we are in a me, me, me society and mostly people only care about themselves and not their fellow passenger!

  12. CaneyeUpgrade says:

    I’d like to save the 15 bucks, but sometimes people just don’t care, and my long legs can’t go anywhere else. I went to the AA site to check out what Palal posted and could not find anything about a “ban”. With all sorts of stuff on the net (this week, it’s Elvis, again), anyone know of a direct airline link on this, something more than I know a guy who heard from a guy? Don’t they have to post something if they have rules about something? I know some airlines have been hurting, but so have my knees.

  13. john saenz says:

    The problem…as clearly stated is IN THE AIRLINES not the person in front…COMPLAIN TO THE AIRLINES AND TO THE FAA…WE Are keeping them in buisness SO WHY DO WE HAVE TO TAKE THE ABUSE..all it itake is ONE AIRLINE to change and the word of mouth or advertising will spread and I will fly an airline because of more leg room..the airline s take notice of profit and loss…DONT FALL FOR AMERICAAN AIRLINES -WE GIVE YOU MORE LEG ROOM LIES…..they DO NOT give more leg room …THEY NEED TO BE SUED FOR FALSE ADVESRTISMENT
    COLLECTIVELY if we band together WE CAN make a change
    john saenz

  14. Right to Recline says:

    I agree – each and every seat has the right to recline. It is the responsibility of the person with knee issues to reserve a seat with more legroom (e.g. bulkhead, exit, first class, economy plus, etc.)

    It’s easy to find these seats. Everytime I travel I am asked at the airport or online when I print my boarding pass if I want to pay a nominal fee to upgrade to a seat with more room.

    Whether we are tall, large, short, or skinny – we all think the cramped seating is terrible . If you want to complain about it, talk to the airlines, not the person in front of you.

    Using the knee defender is completely selfish.

  15. Cookie Lover says:

    One way to avoid the person in front of you on a flight to end up in your lap is to fly Midwest Airlines when possible!

    This is a fantastic airline with leather seats, only two seats on each side of the plane, extra leg room, and a console that is about 6 inches between you and your neighbor. There is a little pull-down foot rest and the best part–warm chocolate chip cookies baked on board on all flights after 10 AM for free!

    Customer service is still important to this airline. When they asked me to move to an exit row to accommodate a child who couldn’t sit in the assigned seat, they actually offered me a free cocktail for my “inconvenience.” To show you the space on the exit row seat, I put my feet out and had a difficult time reaching the foot rest due to the amount of space!
    The flight attendants and pilots are friendly and never fail to thank you for your business at departure.

    Rates are very reasonable, too! If they don’t fly to your destination, keep checking. They are expanding their flight schedule frequently. Give them a try and encourage a company who genuinely remembers what good customer service is all about.

  16. Barb says:

    I agree, the fault here lies with the airlines as well as with rude people. There are few things more dreadful than having your flight cancelled, so you lose your carefully-preselected bulkhead or front-of-the-plane aisle seat, only to get dumped on the next flight that’s now totally full, shoe-horned into a middle seat with ABSOLUTELY NO LEG ROOM behind some bozo who constantly flings himself against his seat back then reclines violently, when you’re also next to the seatmates-from-hell. Then you sit on the tarmac for hours…AAARRGH!!!

    But I also have a wonderful-airline story. There are two discount carriers in Australia, Virgin Blue and Jetstar. I flew both of them in June, and they are incredible. New planes, leather seats, plenty of room, and the friendliest flight attendants and best service anywhere! I also called from the States before my trip to change two flight reservations, and, as is typical of the wonderful Australian attitude, it was “No worries!” U.S. airlines should send their people to Australia for training and also take a look at the “cheap” airlines’ aircraft!!!

  17. Barbara says:

    OMG, I have been reading about this device for over a year. I only fly about 3-4 times a year. But like many others, it is not my favorite thing to do. Therefore, I sleep on the flight. I pay for my ticket in a seat that reclines. That is what it is meant for. I can only hope the person behind me will do their work at the office and take this time to recline also. But as this is my paid for reclining seat, I will do just that and wake up at my destination. Get over it.

  18. Marjorie says:

    I don’t think these coach seats ought to recline—not if the airlines are going to stuff us in like sardines. Does that tiny bit of reclining REALLY mean so much in terms of comfort? I doubt it means as much to one’s own seat-comfort as it does to the dis-comfort of the person behind.

    Two years ago I flew Air France coach from BOS to CDG (it was indeed this experience that created my mantra of “I’ll never fly coach again”). Air France’s seats were SO close together that one could literally not use the tray-table AT ALL if the seat in front was reclined (the flight attendants made an announcement about this before serving the meal, and enforced the rule.

    But the fun really began after the meal, when people went to sleep. I was in the window seat [i.e. one person between me and the aisle]. The person next to me….whom I shall refer to here as “Smelly Guy”….fell asleep. But the person in front of Smelly Guy was reclined. I was trapped. In addition, I was wearing a skirt.

    So when I finally had to use the toilet, my options were pretty limited. Because of the reclined guy in front of S.G., I couldn’t get by S.G. without what might have been mistaken for a sexual movement.

    Ergo, I got to wake up TWO people, neither of whom was too happy. Even then, squeezing by S.G., was a bit more familiar than I prefer to be with strangers. It was a disgusting experience.

    One wonders what would have happened in an emergency. It would have taken true dexterity to get out of that seat in a quick fashion.

  19. HHB says:

    re Knee defenders..
    knee defenders do Not interfere with aircraft operation.
    HOWEVER, if a pilot or flight attendant decide to ask you to remove them, what is the situation.
    if you refuse, you can be charged with flight crew interference…and that can lead to a charge of interference with the safe operation of an aircraft while in flight.
    I hope it will never come to a situation like this. My friend, a AC Capt. on the AB A340-600, on the orient run, suggested to ask the crew OK before using them………OR write to the airline and get their ok in writing…..
    have a great day

  20. Jan Douw says:

    To all you tall travelers out there:

    How about simply planning ahead and surfing to http://www.seatguru.com/ to get that optimal seat?

    Happy trails,


  21. TJ says:

    Delta airlines will not allow the use of knee defender, it doesn’t matter if the user claims that FAA has not banned its use. Don’t even try it, I know so, I’m a flight attendant for Delta airlines.

  22. Tall Man says:

    I am 6’6″ and I used Knee Defenders just last week on a trip from IAD to LAS. I actually have to compress my kneecaps to fit my legs between the seat rows – I have to move the magazines out of the pocket just to fit in, because my knees push against the seat in front of me. Airlines are reducing the amount of service they offer, and flying fewer planes. My flights were all full; there were no magic bulkhead or exit rows available. Here’s a bulletin to all you self-entitled recliners: you’re not going to recline your seat if you’re sitting in front of me anyway. I can either use this product to support your weight instead of my knees, or I can violently shove your seat back as you recklessly slam back into me again and again.

  23. Travelsonic says:

    “donít think these coach seats ought to reclineónot if the airlines are going to stuff us in like sardines. Does that tiny bit of reclining REALLY mean so much in terms of comfort?”

    Actually, yes. On airlines like jetBlue especially.

    The seat recline isn’t as small as some people are making it out to be. Not that great, but not “nothing” by any stretch of common sense.

    BTW: If anybody tries to use these things on my seat, look at figuring out why you wasted your money, as you’ll be picking up the pieces soon after I find out you put them on my seat.

  24. sara says:

    Rick, not sure if you ever posted this, but when we fly, after the purchase of tickets and then when we are about to get assigned seats, we always go to http://www.seatguru.com/

    it tells you what seats are the worst/best, if you are next to or in front of a bathroom etc, or worst yet, the seat may not even recline at all. .

    Main thing is that you need to know the type of plane you are on so that it can pull up the cabin to display. I usually pull up the site prior to booking my ticket so that i can have it ready to display.

    It is an very user friendly site and I recommend to everyone.

  25. Dude says:

    I can’t believe all you winners about seat reclining! Get over it, they go back. You can easily compensate by reclining your seat. You get all the room back. You guys all act like you are big time flyers, but any real road warrior knows this. I am 6’4″ and I fly over 200k a year, most of it in coach. I pay for my seat and it reclines. You do not have the right to ask me to do anything with the seat I paid for. You complainers are selfish self-absorbed wannabees. Why in the hell are you bringing huge laptops on airplanes? That is simply moronic. No self respecting globe trotter travels around with anything bigger than 13???. If you aren???t smart enough to keep it out of the way of the reclining seat, you deserve to have it broken, simply for being STUPID! If you try to usde a knee defender on me, I’ll simply report you and they will make you remnove it. And yes, it will be embarassing for you! Virtualy every major airline has banned them. Where do you people get off thinking it is ok to mess with a seat someone else has paid for! Knee defender users are theives, plain and simple. If you bother me on a flight I will simply tell you to F-off in a calm professionally managed tone. I will ignore your wininng and if you continue to wine, the flight attendants will pay you a visit. If you can’t control yourselves, then you will be greated by some very nice uniformmed folks, when the plane lands. I saw this exact thing happen on a flight just the other day. The JERK got a hefty fine and now they are on a no-fly list.

  26. Rick Seaney says:


    Okay, that’s one for the “no Knee Defender” column…


  27. Dude says:

    You bet it is! Anyone that thinks it’s OK to use one of those things is a complete idiot. Why do yu think the airlines banned them.

    What we have here is a bunch of people that just don’t get how it works on airplanes. They are the same people that do not wait their turn when exiting the aircraft. It’s all about them!

    Oh and these idiots carry their overstuffed bags on trying to save a second or two, or the 15 bucks. I flew over 200 k last year and checked my bag on very flight. It didn’t go missing once and I flew:
    Korea Air, KLM, Cina Air, Singapore, Virgin, Jet Blue, UNited, Southworst, American, Air France, Luft, and a ton more.

    If you are not flying more than 60k a year, I do not think you are a real frequent flyer.

    It’ these unfrequent flyers that just can’t seem to get with the program. They show up at security all hold up the lines. They ask you to not recline your seat on as flight from SFO to London. When they ask everyone to close the windows and they turn out the lights, its nighit niight time. Seats go back and weaners that can’t take it need to stop being such pussys.

  28. Rick Seaney says:

    All I can say, Dude, is your complaints echo those of most of the folks I hear from.

    Thanks for your comments,

  29. Dude says:

    Well Rick, as a society we are becoming way too tollerant of inconsiderate, self abosrbed, passive aggressive jerks. It is a lot of what is wrong with our country today. It is an attitude of entitelment from the masses. Those of us that are upwardly mobile usually get their from working hard, assuming some risk and making wise choices. The folks that think they are entitled to other’s things in the name of their selfish comfort need a wake up call. I am apprciattive that you have a well run forum to educate the masses.

    If you buy a seat on a plane you are getting EXACTLY what you paid for. The airlines are not making a ton of money these days. They are sadled with ourageous union contracts that nearly drove them out of bsuiness. They litterally have to gamble on fuel futures. Our economy would collapse even further if we did not have inexpensive flights. Ultimately, the airlines adpat to market demand.

    Airlines will respond to customer demand if itg makes business sense. We all want more room in coach, but we have to come to terms that it has to make business sense for the airelines to accomodate us. The math is simple. If we want 20% more space, we have to replace the revenue from the lost seats. We also need to be ready for higher prices when planes are not to capacity always. It’s a simple utility curve.

    I am 6’4″ about 250lbs, a former professional athelete. I make sure to stay in my space and it’s tiring to do so. However, I have the moral character to understand that this is my duty to my neighbors and realize I have no right to complain. Yea god made me this way, but it does not give me the right to impose my size on other’s space. All you fatties and fellow tall dudes need to learn ths simple rule of life. If god made you huge learn how to deal with it CONDIDERATELY. If you need to save a buck in coach and there is nothing wrong with that, look for flights that are less occupied. Yes, you have to get up super early, or fly the redeye, but you can still find rows that are not completely full.

    If you are ‘Big,” check in early and talk to the service desk about your seat assignment. I have never met a service person that won’t try to do their best of their ability to help “Big” people if they can.

    Airlines like Southwust need to have a more efficient way of large passengers buying two seats!


  30. Rick Seaney says:

    Abiding Dude,

    You make so much sense.


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