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Qantas, Virgin Australia ban 'Knee Defender'

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, Virgin Australia

Qantas and Virgin Australia have banned the controversial Knee Defender dongle which prevents economy seats from reclining.

Both airlines issued statements confirming their stance in the wake of a highly publicised stoush on a United Airlines flight which saw the plane make an unscheduled landing and two passengers marched off.

Sales of the Knee Defender reportedly skyrocketed on the back of media coverage of the diversion, with passengers clamouring to buy the $22 plastic clamps which slip onto the legs of your seat's tray table to physically prevent the passenger in front from reclining.

But don't try using it on a Qantas or Virgin Australia flight.

"The use of Knee Defenders or similar device would be in breach of our conditions of carriage" says Virgin Australia. "The safety and comfort of our guests remains our highest priority."

Likewise, Qantas confirms it will not "permit attachments such as the Knee Defender to aircraft seats."

The airlines' conditions of carriage provide a catch-all across a wide range of situations including the use of a Knee Defender or similar devices.

In the event that a traveller finds a Knee Defender has been fitted behind their seat to prevent them from reclining, and the passenger behind refuses to remove it, the non-reclining passenger can call a member of the cabin crew and ask them to have the device removed.

If the Knee Defending passenger refuses to obey this directive from the cabin crew they're in breach of the conditions of carriage, which opens them up actions which can include being restrained or removed from the flight, refused future travel on the airline and potentially prosecuted.

Have you ever encountered somebody using a Knee Defender on a Qantas or Virgin Australia flight? And if so, what did you do?

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 27/8/14 by gumshoe

Pity, on a SYD/HNL overnight JQ fight in Star (sorry no Star) class the idiot in front bulkhead seat had it all way back in my face, refused to move it forward, this gadget would have been perfect.

1 on 27/8/14 by Edward

Tough titties. You want a better seat? Pay for it.

2 on 27/8/14 by Mayan

Do what I do:  shove that seat forward.  Of course, I can get away with that because I'm something of an amazon of a woman which has the advantages that a)  I'm strong enough and b)  it's mostly men who suffer the entitlement complex that makes them think they can shove their seat back into someone else's face, but they won't get too shirty with a woman.

There's little enough space between seats without people reclining.  When you think about the speed of recline when someone presses that button, *that* from the person behind's perspective is an assault.  So, recliners, man up and develop those lower back muscles that allow you sit upright.

1 on 27/8/14 by TheRealBabushka

I'd love to sit in front of you Mayan and recline my seat. I'll post the whole thing on Youtube. It would terribly entertaining!

1 on 27/8/14 by Mayan

The last man who did, on a flight between Perth and Adelaide, really didn't expect it.  He started to pick an argument, so I told him to stop whining and suggested he move to another seat.  He did.  #AmazonAdvantages

1 on 27/8/14 by TheRealBabushka

He clearly didn't invest in a Bose noise cancelling headset.

1 on 27/8/14 by Mayan

He never had his seat go bolt upright as quickly as it did that day.  No headphones can cancel that out.Think about it:  you're pissing someone off who is behind you.  There is no way on earth that is a wise idea.

1 on 27/8/14 by TheRealBabushka

It would be worthwhile just to see the commotion you'll make! It would be hillarious! It would also be interesting to see how the cabin crew would react; How far it would escalate to. It would be a real eye opener. 

1 on 27/8/14 by Mayan

Your 'right' to recline comes at the very real cost to the person behind you of half their space.  The person behind you can quite easily prevent you from reclining with an outstretched arm.  Ban that.  If you want to recline without payback, buy a seat at the front of the plane.The person behind you can 'sneeze' and land a booger in your face, randomly shove or kick your seat, spray food or drink over you, or grab your head by mistake when they try to lever themselves out of their seat, a task made more onerous and mistake-prone when those in front have reclined and stolen half their personal space.

Thousands of years of human experience says not to piss off someone behind you, but people still insist upon reclining their seats on a plane. They think they have a right to because there's a recline button, but they forget that there is someone behind them who is going to have a seat back shoved into their face ... and they have the upper hand when it comes to payback. The smart money says that one should not recline.And remember, the seat in front is very easily stopped from reclining in other ways, albeit at the cost of some exertion until the Ayn Rand disciple in front realises the futility of their actions.

1 on 27/8/14 by Phalanger

Mayan, you're one of those self entitled people who thinks they have a right they don't.  Reclining the seats it part of the functions, and there person has the right to do so (the traverse of recline is event listed for the seats).  It will be accepted by any court based on industry practice, so you're behavour could easily land you in legal trouble.  The concept that you own this space is entirly wrong, and if anything you are stealing from those people in front of you.  You're not being awesome, but rather just a standard arogant self-centered person who will not succeed in society.  Additionally there is good medical reason to have such a recline (the idea it builds your back muscles is wrong).

If you want a seat with clear space in front, then fork up the money for it (or work hard and earn a job which can).  Otherwise live with the reality of your situations.  People like you who think they can be a disruption for no benifit to society should be banned from it's systems including transportation.

1 on 27/8/14 by eminere

Mayan and Robert would make the perfect couple.

2 on 27/8/14 by hutch

I'm not for reclining on short domestic hops... but in long-haul international my seat is reclined except at meal times.

3 on 27/8/14 by Alpha

Mayan, didn't your parents teach you manners?  You should be downright ashamed of your haughty actions.  Who do you think you are?

1 on 28/8/14 by eminere

An Amazonian wildebeest, apparently.

3 on 27/8/14 by Propofol88

What are people's thoughts on recline in domestic QF/VA business seats? Do you feel less guilt reclining knowing that the person behind won't necessarily made uncomfortable despite? Personally, I only partly recline if I need the extra bit of comfort on a short hop, or fully if there's no one behind me or I'm doing a red eye (eg. Darwin - Sydney). Row 2 in VA business is great as noone is behind you - recline all you want! :D

1 on 27/8/14 by Propofol88

*made uncomfortable despite a loss in legroom (impossible to post on a small hand held mobile screen!)

4 on 27/8/14 by Edward

I feel absolutely zero guilt in reclining my seat in whatever class I'm in, even if I am in emergency exit row. Seat pitch and other measurement info is made accessible for most airlines before booking, so if you don't like the pitch, either pay more for a more expensive seat or don't fly.The only exception I have is during meal service, reclining should absolutely be banned. Doing so should result in a 3-12 month ban from flying with that airline. I cannot think of a single act more rude on a plane than reclining during a meal service.

5 on 27/8/14 by TheRealBabushka

I wonder if it's possible to break the knee defender.

I wonder if a really large person forces the seat to recline anyway (think Norbit) and breaks the device. It would be hillarious!!!

6 on 27/8/14 by Merc25

I normally don't  fly economy for all the reasons stated but would think there should be a reclining section and a non recline section on planes so those that like to recline can do so and those like sitting up right can do so without being reclined on by the person in front .

7 on 27/8/14 by am

IMO we need fixed shell seats on short haul aircraft. 

8 on 27/8/14 by seanpodge


9 on 27/8/14 by Chris_PER

People have every right to recline their seat, no matter what class you're in.  Other than reclining during takeoff/landing and during meals, if you don't like it, I suggest you a) change classes, b) don't fly.

1 on 27/8/14 by princess fiona

Pretty much spot on. My own travel etiquette means that I won't recline on Domestic flights apart from trans-cons etc. I appreciate that this isn't everyone's way of thinking and if the passenger in front of me reclines, I live with it and say and do nothing.

1 on 27/8/14 by bob342

I concur, I don't recline on domestic flights where you're spending less than 3 hours on the plane.  Anything else I can/do recline with the exception of during meals of course.

2 on 27/8/14 by Jared

As i know all too well, people will often use a fair bit of force to exert this right. As a fairly tall person, people tend to just use force when they can't recline. Even if the opposiing force is the static position of my knee in the back of the seat. 

3 on 28/8/14 by Hugo

Ettiquette isn't about "rights", it's about not being a jerk. Sometimes being a civilised human being is about knowing you have a certain "right" to inconvenience others for your own convenience, but choosing not to exercise that right. So the language of "rights" is, I think, inappropriate when talking about correct behaviour.

People who recline right after takeoff and leave it that way until the FA comes and tells them to put their seat up? They're being jerks. Personally I recline only if it's a long flight, and I always do it gradually. 

10 on 27/8/14 by eight10man

I haven't seen this device before, but it appears from the picture in the article that you can only clamp it on when your own tray table is down.In most cases I reckon people do this during meal services only, so to those people who do recline their seats during a meal serice I say: "Booooh!"

1 on 27/8/14 by Propofol88

People use laptops or need to do paperwork on the flight before getting to meetings..... Not just for meals!

1 on 27/8/14 by sq421

Bad planning on your part doesn't make it an urgency on mine. You might have to do paperwork, I might want to sit back and catch a few zzzz's. The seat has a recline function, and the occupant gets to control it, not the person sitting behind. On the occasions when I fly economy, my seat stays reclined for the duration of the flight except take off, landing, and meal services.

1 on 28/8/14 by Propofol88


That's why I fork out my hard earned to fly business or first each and every time - no need to fuss about this whole recline BS

11 on 27/8/14 by Bizflyer

Used something similar to this on a ba flight in economy form Glasgow to lhr the passenger in front went  mental and said to the cabin crew I should be banned from flying. What she said back was priceless " well if you weren't so heavily set ( fat ) the seat wouldn't recline that much futher and I was moved to an exit row seat.

12 on 27/8/14 by Jeremy

Was not impressed that cabin crew today on virgin ool to syd allowed reclining during takeoff and landing.  I have no issues during flight even domestic if you really feel the need but not during these times. 

13 on 27/8/14 by davar98

I don't think its either / or. We are all stuck on the flight together. I tend not to recline in economy on short flights, and if I do, then I recline slowly - only when I actually want to rest. If I'm just reading or eating, then I don't. What I dislike is when people recline dramatically, and then stay there the whole flight, even though they are leaning forward to eat.

I've adopted this attitude after having an Austrlaian rugby captain recline his seat into my face, and breaking my glasses on a QF flight to Bangkok. At the same time he manhandled all the female FA's literally pressing his request for an upgrade to business. It took the purser graciously to explain that Bus was full, and he was welcome to have a look if he didn't believe. Recognising his general bad behaviour, the FA's then plied us with business class alcohol, and various treats, deliberately bypassing the rugby captain.

I've also been known to ask the person behind me if they would mind if I reclined - never got an unreasonable 'no' yet.

14 on 27/8/14 by turbojezz

its really quite simple...

if im tired, i recline and sleep. short haul, long haul...dont care.

if i have someone in front of me who reclines, i will either recline with them and say to myself 'hmmmm that was a good idea' or sit there thinking why didint i upgrade this flight with points or why dont i have enough money/points to pay for the next class up :)

15 on 28/8/14 by Longreach

As someone else here has suggested, a no-reclining section for those who believe in doing the right thing would solve the problem.

This would leave the selfish and inconsiderate to recline their seats to their hearts' content into the faces of other boors.

16 on 28/8/14 by Dubya

Just get those lwater bottles that they give you, put it into the pocket with the lid pointing into the back of the seat. Job done

17 on 29/8/14 by Azizi

In addition to the ban of the knee defender all major airlines should protect consumers from 'anti recline harassers' so customers can fly in peace. Comsumer rights protects all of us so if i want to recline the seat I paid for - it is well within my rights. If you choose not to recline, that is also your right. But  abusing, preventing, harassing, being an outright nuisance  to the person in front of you is simply not on.

I do agree, that come common courtesy is in order. You check first if the person behind you has finished their meal and your recline 'slowly'. For business travellers, if you really need to pull out a laptop for that 1 hour flight, you really need to fly business. Its not other travellers problem if your company is a skimp. Also airline lounges are always great to work. For business flights I rather rest even if i'm flying business and economy is way too noisy anyway. 

For airlines, you created this problem anyway, by trying to squeeze passengers just so you can add an extra row - which you have problems filling up anyway!

Finally I do have to admit, I travel a lot for business and pleasure but I haven't come across any whackjobs behind me. Everyone I have travelled with have always been courtious so have to be thankful for that.

18 on 29/8/14 by bryce05

If I sense the person in front of me is about to recline, my knees go into action. Aint no way that seat is coming back - sorry!

19 on 29/8/14 by Ozmuzz

The only solution is a "Passenger Bill of Rights" to stop airlines from putting Economy Class seats any closer than a 34" pitch. So what if everyone has to pay a bit more. We used to spend a year's salry to fly to London and Back and now we object at 1 week's salary.... Airlines like Jetstar are ruining the flying experience.

20 on 29/8/14 by airbear

Wow!  The more comments I read on this subject here and on other forums, the more convinced I am that on short-/medium haul , the only solution is for airlines to install 100% totally non-reclineable seating. On long-haul in Y, it can only be the old-CX style fixed shell seats that let you slouch rather than recline.

Job done!!

21 on 30/8/14 by FrqwntFlyr

Really people? We're talking about 2-4 inches here. Furthermore, if you really feel threatened by that little bit of "in your face" movement recline your own seat. Either way quite complaining, grow up and realize that the world doesn't revolve around you.

22 on 30/8/14 by JOE

Agree that the hard shell seats are the way to go. 

23 on 11/9/14 by Optik

If you think you have the right to recline without asking me (the person behind you) if it is ok, and accepting my decision, then go ahead. I then will have the right to keep kicking your seat until you decide that it is not a good idea to be disrecpectful and rude.

If I need to work or watch entertainment (on flights without built-in systems), you will have to deal with that.  If you break my laptop, you WILL pay for it, but I have the right to stop you doing that.

I've had my screen cracked once, and it will NEVER happen again.

I flew yesterday on Qantas from Adelaide to Sydney and the person in front tried to recline (for a 2 hour flight at 5pm) and I just held my arm our and stopped the seat reclining until they gave up.

I think people who think they have a RIGHT to recline are basically inconsiderate asses.  When I want to recline I ALWAYS ask the person behind me if it is ok... and more often they are shocked that I even asked... and frequently I am thanked for even asking.... even got a phone number once because I was polite :)

BAN reclining on morning and short-haul flights.

24 on 24/9/14 by icanfly

Why can't they install the reclining seats that as they recline the bottom moves forward so you recline but the whole seat is contained within the same space. 

And if you try to recline without checking behind you first thar someone isnt working on a laptop etc are self centered. Yes it's your right to recline but it's also the right of the person behind you to be using their laptop or watching a movie or whatever they like. Too many people recline without checking first and their ignorance breaks people laptops etc behind them.

1 on 24/9/14 by icanfly

The nerve that someone had to downvote optiks post above. So it's ok for you to recline without asking and risk you could break someone's equipment?  Again we have the right to work on laptop as you have the right to recline.  It's a two way system

25 on 9/4/16 by rbright

The airline statement "The use of Knee Defenders or similar device would be in breach of our conditions of carriage" says Virgin Australia. "The safety and comfort of our guests remains our highest priority." Is discriminatory and contradictory discriminatory in favour of the recliners and contradictory in that the comfort of both passengers is NOT equal when the seat in front is reclined. 

The most annoying situation is when the bulkhead passenger reclines!


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