Has this ever happened to you on a flight?

You’re eating your ‘delicious’ in-flight meal, when the guy in front of you reclines his seat so far back, his hair tickles your nose. I call it space invading. And though it’s never a first class problem, it’s definitely common in the slums of economy.


On at least half of all my flights, some clown will whip his seat back and smack my knees so he can sleep off his hangover after an epic conference/festival/last-night-of-his-tropical-vacation bash. For a tall fella with bad knees like me, the Sudden Seat Smash is one of the worst parts of flying coach.

But I’ve stumbled across a solution!

It’s called Knee Defender™ and it’s a pair of plastic devices that you attach to the arms of your tray table. They’re coated in no-slip rubber. Which means the guy in front can’t move his seat back and snap my laptop in two. It’s my favourite kind of invention … brilliant and obnoxious.


According to their website, since Knee Defender™ was introduced in 2003, it has been purchased by travellers hailing from all seven continents. They’re adjustable, too. So based on your height and leg length, you can decide how much space your knees will require.

Knee Defender circles

The website says their product “helps you defend the space you need when confronted by a faceless, determined seat recliner who doesn’t care how long your legs are or about anything else that might be “back there”.”

So they’re basically an $18.95 force field for your knees, whether you’re “protecting yourself from being crunched, want to maintain enough leg room to do some in-seat exercises because of health concerns – such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), sometimes called “economy class syndrome” – or you just want some warning so you can move your notebook computer out of the way before the seat is reclined, Knee Defender™ works like a charm.”

This company is so awesome, they even offer a downloadable courtesy card that you can hand to the chump in front. The card tells him how far you will let him recline his seat before you’ll block him with your Knee Defender™ clamps. How ballsy/passive aggressive is that? Here’s what the courtesy card says:

Courtesy Card

The Knee Defender™’s slogan: “Standing up for the right of the tall guy to sit down”

And the reviews are in!

***** USA Today says they’re a “Must-have travel gadget.”

***** The Washington Post says “If the guy won’t compromise, whip out your Knee Defender™.”  

And I say:

***** This product is for rabble-rousers who enjoy making their neighbours whine to flight attendants. Or in other words: this innovatively annoying product is for people who want to start a sky fight.


Look, I’m 6’2″ with giraffe-y long legs and NO TRANSPORTATION, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, IS BUILT FOR MY LEG LENGTH. Doesn’t matter if the seats are in a car, bus, train, or plane, they’re designed for elves, street urchins, and wee little 5’1″ grannies. Even if I sit up perfectly straight, my knees are flush against the seat ahead of me.

So I’m ordering a pair of Knee Defender™ clamps.

But though I’m excited to see how annoying they’ll be, I foresee two problems with their deployment:

1) The clamps only work if your tray table is down. But you’re not allowed to have your tray table down on takeoff. So after your flight takes off, you have to race to clamp the Knee Defender into place before the guy in front of you can whip his seat back.

2) $18.95 is a lot of cash for two pieces of plastic that will ultimately get me punched in the snoot.

What do you think…is the Knee Defender fair or foul play? Or should we write to the airlines and demand more leg room?

— Ken Hegan

Read more of Ken’s travel stories here and follow him to victory on Twitter

Images courtesy Knee Defender at kneedefender.com

Cartoon courtesy this site

To read suggested airplane etiquette from the makers of this product, click here