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Special Travel Issue | Knocked knees

Seats Locked, Tensions Loaded

Side Trips: Travel Tips, Trends and Tools

March 21, 2004|Renee Vogel

Anyone flying coach has been there: You've just squeezed yourself into a vaguely comfortable position when the person in front of you reclines his seat all the way, leaving you no room to eat, use your laptop or, if you're tall, escape knee injury -- and the Recumbent One isn't budging. Some passengers are taking matters into their own hands with a controversial new product called the Knee Defender. Billed as "standing up for the right of the tall guy to sit down," its small plastic clips attach to the arms of your open tray table and can lock the seat back in front of you in its full upright position. Brainchild of 6-foot-3 Ira Goldman, an inventor and former Capitol Hill counsel, the product wouldn't be necessary, he maintains, if airlines improved the cattle-car conditions on most planes or had attendants request consideration between passengers. "Courtesy is the bottom line," Goldman says. The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled the device violates no regulations, though individual airlines can ban them. "I compare using the Knee Defender to locking the bathroom door," he says. "You shouldn't have to, because people should knock, but they don't."

Knee Defender, $14.95, available at www.kneedefender.com.

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