Sales of Knee Defender, a gadget that blocks airplane seats from reclining, surged after a scuffle between two passengers forced an airline to divert a flight and boot them out, Bloomberg News reported.
A website selling the device crashed on Wednesday after being overwhelmed by a surge in orders, the gadget’s inventor Ira Goldman was quoted saying. The gadget, which sells for US$21.95 per set, has been on the market since 2003.
While the product interferes with an airline passenger’s comfort as it prevents them from reclining their seat, the real issue is the move of airliners to reduce the legroom in coach cabins, Goldman said. Carriers are shrinking space between rows and using thinner cushions to accommodate more passengers.
“They don’t have Plan B for the fact that a lot of people, when they sit down in their seat at the gate, their knees already are hitting the seat-back in front of them,” Goldman told Bloomberg.
The Knee Defender hit the headlines after an argument over legroom between two passengers forced United Airlines Flight 1462 to be diverted to Chicago on Aug. 24.
A 47-year-old man installed the Knee Defender, preventing the 48-year-old woman in front of him from reclining her seat. After the man refused to remove the device, the woman threw water at him, causing alarm among the other passengers.
Goldman’s gadget is a pair of U-shaped clips that fits over the arms of the seat-back tray table, blocking the passenger in front from leaning back.
The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits the use of such devices during taxiing, takeoffs and landings, when tray tables must be stowed, the report said, adding that airlines can decide whether they will allow their use during cruising.
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