Knee Defender: Reclaim Your Precious Airplane Leg Room - ITS Tactical
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Knee Defender: Reclaim Your Precious Airplane Leg Room

By Bryan Black

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While I’ll leave it up to your discretion if the Knee Defender from Gadget Duck offers a solution to an imminent threat, it has provided me with one while traveling. Allow me to explain.

About a year ago, I was sitting in coach and like most of you reading this article, cramped for space. I’m typically very productive when I fly and wind up knocking out a bunch of writing on my MacBook Pro that always travels with me.

It was during such a circumstance as this, when I nearly had my laptop screen crushed by an overzealous reclining passenger. I always take advantage of the tray table to set my laptop on, but ensure that I leave some space between my screen and the seat back, just in case.

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Mid-sentence into writing about an unknown topic, the seat in front of me flew back with such a force, that it trapped the top lid of my laptop in that small cutout where the tray table resides.

I quickly saw what was occurring and pulled my laptop out of the void, but not before I heard a small crunch. After collecting myself and realizing my laptop wasn’t harmed, I politely leaned into the aisle and tried to get the attention of the woman in the aisle seat in front of me.

“Excuse me,” I said calmly. “There’s really not a lot of room back here and I’m wondering if you’d consider moving your seat up?” I really wasn’t expecting a snarky reply, but it’s what I got. “What, I can’t put my seat back?” I saw her eyes roll and knew it wasn’t worth any further effort. I marked that down as yet another traveler without airplane etiquette and went back to work as best I could.

I’m sure there are many that will disagree with me, but I don’t put my seat back on flights, I just don’t think it’s fair to take up even more of someone’s space that they’ve paid for. Especially today, where more and more of it is disappearing. I believe in Airplane Etiquette and try to be as courteous to other passengers as possible. I also don’t think the seat in front of me is a handrail to grab onto when I get up out of my seat. Getting slingshotted isn’t fun.

After the near-death laptop experience, I started searching online for anything that might be able to help prevent future and sudden seat reclining. Little did I know that I wasn’t alone in my want to put a stop to the problem.

Knee Defender

Enter Gadget Duck and their product, Knee Defender. Consisting of two independent “clips” that use friction to hold onto the stays (or arms) of your tray table, they limit the ability of the seat in front of you from being able to recline.

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While you can press them all the way forward, or right up against the seat in front, you can slide them back a bit and still allow the seat in front of you to recline partially. You essentially create a buffer with this configuration.

Obviously, if your seat doesn’t have a tray table that can fold down from the seat in front of you, Knee Defender is ineffective. You also need to be Johnny-on-the-spot in order to hear the announcement that the plane has reached the required altitude to put your tray table down. This is also the announcement for the ability for the person in front of you to put their seat back, so you have to be ready.

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The Knee Defender looks to be made of a hard plastic, with a tough rubber molding around the part that clips onto the tray table stays. This hard rubber is what provides the friction needed for these to hold. The pair of Knee Defenders only weighs 2.2 oz. and can be nested inside of each other to save space for storage.

I’ve now used the Knee Defender on every flight I’ve been on within the last year and I’m happy to report that they work as advertised. I have to admit to smirking once or twice when a person in front of me continued to try everything they could to get their seat back. One of those times consisted of a guy getting pretty violent and throwing his back against the seat a few dozen times. His verbal acknowledgement of a struggle taking place up there, was fairly comical.

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You either agree with the invention by now, or are wondering how it’s legal to use the Knee Defender on a plane; maybe both. Well, the Gadget Duck website has the following statement from the FAA, as reported in the October 28, 2003 edition of The Washington Post:

“FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto said the clips were not against federal aviation rules as long as they weren’t used during taxiing, takeoffs or landings.”

It should be noted that if a flight attendant is aware of the Knee Defender and asks you to remove it, you should follow their instructions. Gadget Duck also notes that Knee Defender “isn’t made to hog space” and even offers a Courtesy Card that can be viewed and printed from their website. It seemed a bit passive-aggressive to me and I haven’t opted to use it. I’d personally be more offended by the Courtesy Card, than to think there was something wrong with the reclining function of my seat.

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So there you have it, protection from reclining airplane seats with Knee Defender. There’s quite a bit of documentation on the Gadget Duck website, if you’re up for reading more about it, but please feel free to leave any questions below in the comments and I’ll do my best to field them.

The Knee Defender is designed in the USA and manufactured in China.

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