Denver-bound flight diverted after passengers argue over Knee Defender gadget

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United Airlines Airbus A320. Photo credit: Tony Hisgett via WikiMedia Commons

CHICAGO — A United Airlines flight from New Jersey to Denver was diverted Sunday after two passengers got into a heated argument over the ability to recline a seat.

A passenger was using the Knee Defender, a $21.95 gadget that passengers attach to tray tables to prevent the person in front of them from reclining.

It’s up to the airlines to set the rules on use of the device, and most airlines, including United, prohibit its use.

According to The Associated Press, on United Flight 1462 from Newark, N.J., to Denver, a man sitting in a middle seat used the Knee Defender to prevent a woman in front of him from reclining while he was on his laptop.

The man, 48, was told by a flight attendant to remove the device, but he refused. The woman, 48, then stood up and threw a cup of water at the man. The pilot then decided to divert the flight to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Chicago Police and Transportation Security Administration officials met the flight but “deemed it a customer service issue,” TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein said. The plane continued to Denver without the squabbling passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration can impose a civil fine up to $25,000 for unruly passengers, though no arrests were made in this case.