Passenger in “Knee Defender” Fight: Not Proud But I'd Use It Again

A Colorado man whose use of a "Knee Defender” gadget on a plane helped spark a national debate over the right to recline seats on planes said he regrets how he handled himself. But he said he would consider using the controversial device again.

“Who’s right is it? Is it my four inches or is that her four inches,” James Beach asked in a “Today” show interview Thursday. 

Beach, 48, was on a United Airlines flight to Denver from Newark, New Jersey, on Aug. 24., when he deployed the "Knee Defender," a device that attaches to a person's tray table, to stop the woman in front of him from reclining her seat.

He removed the gadget from the seat at the request of a flight attendant. That’s when the other passenger leaned back so fast, she nearly cracked his laptop, he said.

“She just took all the space, and I can’t work now,” Beach said. 

Beach pushed the seat up “pretty hard” to put the “Knee Defender” back in and the woman threw a drink on him and his computer, he said.

Both Beach and the woman were escorted off the plane after it was diverted to a nearby airport.

"I felt terrible when I landed. I'm the first to admit I'm not proud of it," Beach said. Neither flyer was arrested or fined.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the "Knee Defender" is not illegal, but many airlines prohibit its use. Beach said he consider writing a letter to United and was surprised to see the incident trigger a wider debate.

"I did a Google search and saw it was everywhere, and that to me was shocking," he told "Today."

Two more flights were diverted that same week over reclined seats. An American Airlines flight from Miami to Paris landed in Boston after a man angry about a reclined seat allegedly grabbed a flight attendant.

Then on a Delta Air Lines flight from LaGuardia Airport to West Palm Beach, a woman who was knitting tried to recline her seat, angering a woman resting her head on a tray table.

Even though cramped airline seats and too little leg room are among flyers' top complaints, experts say airlines are not likely to provide more space. Some offer more leg room at extra charge.

“I’d rather have plastic stop your seat than my knee cap stop your seat,” said the "Knee Defender's" inventor, Ira Goldman. “That’s why I came up with it.”

Beach said he might try to use the "Knee Defender" again but that he will try to set a better example for his children.

"I said to them, learn from what I just did and don't do the same thing," he said.

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