'Knee Defender' Fights for Space on Planes

Airlines May Stiff-Arm Device Aimed at Adding Legroom

Knee Defender

Knee Defenders work in pairs. The pocket-sized, plastic devices can limit a seatback's ability to recline. Ira Goldman hide caption

itoggle caption Ira Goldman
How Knee Defender's Work

How it works: A Knee Defender is placed on each arm of a lowered tray table. The closer the device is to the seatback, the less the person in front will be able to recline. Ira Goldman hide caption

itoggle caption Ira Goldman

A new device offers tall passengers some relief from the cramped seating available on most commercial airplanes. Called the "Knee Defender," the gadget consists of two pieces of grooved plastic that attach to the arms of a tray table, preventing the seat in front from fully reclining.

The product is the brainchild of Ira Goldman, a 6-foot-2 frequent flyer fed up with having his knees banged up by fellow travelers. Goldman says the demand for his product is out there: He's sold 2,000 units since he started the business a few months ago.

But as NPR's Allison Aubrey reports, Goldman's business could become a casualty of airline policy. Northwest Airlines has banned the gadget, and other carriers are considering following suit. Airlines are concerned that pressure from the device could break their tray table arms — and that tensions resulting from its use could lead to confrontations between passengers.

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