Dispute over gadget that blocks seat reclining diverts flight to Chicago

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 26, 2014 12:00 PM

(Reuters) - A midair argument between two airline passengers over the use of a device that stops the seat in front from reclining caused a Newark-Denver flight to be diverted to Chicago over the weekend, airline and police officials said on Tuesday.

One of the passengers on Sunday's United Airlines flight had used a Knee Defender, a small wedge-like gadget that clips to the passenger's tray table, to force the seat in front to remain upright, according to the airline.

The passenger in front was unhappy to discover this and an argument broke out that could not be quelled by flight attendants, Chicago Police Department spokesman Ron Gaines said.

The pilot diverted the flight to Chicago O'Hare International Airport, where Chicago police officers and Transportation Security Administration officials removed the man and woman, both of whom were described as being in their 40s, from the plane, Gaines said.

Neither were arrested or charged, and their names were not released. They were not allowed to continue on the flight. The TSA referred calls about the matter to the airline, saying it was a "customer service" issue.

The flight eventually landed in Denver a little under two hours late, the airline said.

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Ira Goldman, a reportedly tall Washington, D.C., resident, invented the device more than a decade ago. Many airlines ban its use, although he still sells them online for $21.95. Goldman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We don't allow customers to use devices that prevent seats from reclining," United spokesman Charlie Hobart said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Eric Beech)