Contact Us
Make My Homepage

Angst in the Air: ‘Knee Defender’ user tells his side of the story

NEW YORK (AP) — The businessman whose dispute with a fellow airline passenger over a reclined seat sparked a national debate about air-travel etiquette says he’s embarrassed by the way the confrontation unfolded and that he regrets his behavior.

But don’t expect James Beach to stop using the Knee Defender, a $22 gadget that attaches to a passenger’s tray table and prevents the person in front from reclining. He just plans to be nicer about it.

“I’m pretty ashamed and embarrassed by what happened,” Beach told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I could have handled it so much better.”

Ira Goldman, creator of the Knee Defender, the device that got airline passenger James Beach into a dispute. (AP)

The argument became so tense that the pilots of the Aug. 24 fight diverted the Boeing 737 to Chicago. An AP story about the incident started a broad public discussion of whether passengers should be allowed to recline. In the days that followed, two other flights were diverted under similar circumstances.

Beach, 48, reached out to the AP to clarify a few things about the episode, primarily that he initially complied with flight attendant instructions to remove the device.

For the record, he said, he never reclines his seat.

“You have the right, but it seems rude to do it,” said Beach, who is 6 feet 1 inch tall.

The dispute occurred on the final leg of Beach’s trip back to his home near Denver. He had been in Moscow on business and was given a middle seat for the leg from Newark, New Jersey, to Denver. Beach took out his laptop to review a contract for his company, which develops waste recycling facilities, primarily in Russia. He used the Knee Defender – a Christmas gift a few years ago from his wife – to prevent the woman in front from reclining.

U.S. airlines prohibit use of the Knee Defender, but the devices are not illegal.

“I put them in maybe a third of the time. Usually, the person in front tries (to recline) their seat a couple of times, and then they forget about it,” Beach said. The device comes with a courtesy card to tell passengers that you’ve blocked them, but he doesn’t use it.

“I’d rather just kind of let them think the seat is broken, rather than start a confrontation,” he said.

Beach, who said he flies 75,000 to 100,000 miles a year, wasn’t so lucky this time.

“Seats are getting closer together,” says Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 60,000 flight attendants at 19 airlines. (AP Photo/John Mone)

When the flight attendants came through the cabin to serve beverages, the woman said her seat was broken. That’s when Beach told one of them about the Knee Defender. The flight attendant asked him to remove the device, and Beach said he did.

“As soon as I started to move it, she just full force, blasted the seat back, right on the laptop, almost shattered the screen. My laptop came flying onto my lap,” he said.

Beach complained, saying that he couldn’t work like that, but the flight attendant informed him that the woman had the right to recline. Both passengers were sitting in United’s Economy Plus section, which offers 4 more inches of legroom than the rest of coach.

His reply: “You asked me to let her recline a few inches, and she just took 100 percent of it.”

That’s when Beach’s anger boiled over. He said he pushed the woman’s seat forward and put the Knee Defender back in. The woman stood up and threw a cup of soda – not water, as previously reported water – at him.

It was the first time anybody had ever thrown a drink at him.

“It was really just surreal and shocking. Did that just happen?” Beach recalls. “I said, `I hope you brought your checkbook because you just threw your Sprite all over my $2,000 laptop.’”

The flight attendant stepped in quickly and moved the woman to another seat.

“I said a lot of things I shouldn’t have said to the flight attendant: some bad words, what’s your name and `I can’t believe you’re treating me like this,’” he recalled.

The pilots then changed course for Chicago – a decision that Beach said “amazed” him.

“The plane was dead quiet for the rest of that flight,” he added. “Nobody said a word.”

Ira Goldman, who invented the Knee Defender, said the passengers on the other diverted flights got upset after their knees and head were hit by reclining seats. He said airlines are “trying to wish this problem away.”

His solution: Install seats that slide forward within a shell to recline or to allow the use of his device, which has been sold since 2003.

“They’re selling the same space twice – to me to sit down and then inviting people to put their seat backs there as well,” he said.

When the plane landed in Chicago, police escorted Beach and the woman off. Neither police, nor the airline or the Transportation Security Administration has released any information about the passenger seated in front of Beach.

No criminal or civil charges were brought against them, but United would not let them continue on to Denver.

Beach says he spent the night at an airport hotel and then caught a flight home the next morning. He flew Spirit Airlines. It has no reclining seats.

 

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Best of the Web


Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account with your Facebook account, just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing profile and VIP program points. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://nj1015.com using your Facebook account.

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

Register on New Jersey 101.5 quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a Member? Sign Up Here

Register on New Jersey 101.5 quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!