United Jet Diverted as Fliers Fight Over Knee Defender Device

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/ Source: Associated Press

Airline passengers have come to expect a tiny escape from the confined space of today's packed planes: the ability to recline their seat a few inches. When one passenger was denied that bit of personal space Sunday, it led to a heated argument and the unscheduled landing of their plane. The fight started on a United Airlines flight because one passenger was using the Knee Defender, a $21.95 gadget that attaches to a passenger's tray table and prevents the person in front of them from reclining. United Airlines said it prohibits use of the device, like all major U.S. airlines.

The dispute on United Flight 1462 from Newark, New Jersey to Denver escalated to the point where the airline decided to divert to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, according to Transportation Security Administration spokesman Ross Feinstein. Chicago Police and TSA officers met the flight, spoke to the passengers — a man and a woman, both 48 — and "deemed it a customer service issue," Feinstein said. The plane then continued to Denver without them, arriving 1 hour and 38 minutes late, according to the airline's website. No arrests were made.

United Airlines said in a statement provided to NBC News the flight was "diverted to Chicago O'Hare after a disturbance involving two passengers. Authorities met the aircraft, removed the two passengers and the flight continued to Denver shortly afterwards. We do not allow customers to use devices that prevent seats from reclining."


— Jay Blackman and The Associated Press