My thoughts on the Knee Defender

The Knee Defender is a gadget that was made to, basically, stop people from reclining into your lap in economy class. It involved opening the tray table, sliding the Knee Defender on the table, and since the table angles upright along with the seat recline, the Knee Defender could stop the person in front from reclining/too far.


How the Knee Defender works (courtesy to GadgetDuck)

The promotional website says:

For those of us who have to squeeze ourselves into the limited airplane legroom space of a coach seat offered by many airlines, a seat in front of us that is poised to recline is a collision waiting to happen – with our knees serving as bumpers.

Knee Defender™ to the rescue.

With Knee Defender™, the “Tall Guy” – tall men and tall women, both – can now use a simple, convenient, pocket-sized device to help defend against most flying seatbacks. And because Knee Defenders™ are adjustable, you can generally set them to provide only as much protection as you need.

DVT is also a concern when you fly, and Knee Defender™ can help you keep the airplane legroom space you need to do in-seat exercises while flying. Foot lifts and knee lifts are recommended to promote healthy blood flow to help protect against deep vein thrombosis. Sometimes called “economy class syndrome”, DVT involves a potentially dangerous blood clot that can develop in the leg.

Having enough leg room to move around while still seated is important because in-seat exercising is often the only in-flight exercise option available to promote healthy circulation. This is especially true now that security agencies are imposing new limits on passenger access to the aisles, even during extended international flights.

If the airlines will not protect people from being battered, crunched, and immobilised – very real problems according to healthcare professionals, medical studies, government agencies, and even some airlines – then people need options to protect themselves.

First of all, let me clarify that the Knee Defender was only meant for economy flights, as anything above that usually has enough legroom even when the seat is reclined.

The Knee Defender is sure a controversial gadget, as there are both passive proposers and opposers of the Knee Defender.

Valid points that are for the Knee Defender:

  • It could stop “economy class syndrome” (this is a legitimate nickname, believe it or not) or deep vein thrombosis, in the leg for tall people, a blood clot caused by blocking the blood vessels in the knee
  • People travelling with babies or the elderly could be injured by reclining your seat in economy
  • Slamming the seat backwards after the seat belt sign is turned off could break a computer on the tray table behind already in use (as the tray table “angles” itself to be parallel to the airplane fuselage)
  • Legroom in economy can be horrible, so reclining could limit aisle access, especially for middle or window seat passengers

Valid points that are against the Knee Defender:

  • People pay for the seat, including the recline function, so they are somehow entitled to the space behind
  • It’s pretty much as uncourteous as slamming your seat into recline mode – you’re restricting the comfort of the person in front of you
  • For travel on airlines that allow reclining, it’s a right and not a privilege
  • There’s also an option to ask, and if not you can ask to be reseated

am short, so my opinions could be biased, but I am for reclining, as it does really make a difference for economy class travel (or…actually…any class travel).


Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200 Economy Class space behind reclined seat


Dragonair Airbus A330-300 Economy Class reclined seat legroom

However I am really against the Knee Defender. In this age and time, people have left out the most important part of life: communication. Would it not be easier to ask if you could recline, or otherwise, ask if the person in front of you puts their seat upright?


By reclining, you do cut into other people’s space, which can be irritating, especially for tall people. It would be nice to ask the person behind you if you could recline, or at least look back while doing so to make sure no injuries or problems were caused.


I generally do the latter, and if there’s someone with a baby or a comparatively frail, I either ask or don’t recline at all.


When getting into the air, the first thing I do (assuming the person behind is a person seemingly fit for a little less space) is recline my seat. In business, I just recline my seat (usually, there’s either a lot of space behind, or these days seats are usually fixed shell); in premium economy, I make sure the person at the back is fine with it by looking after I recline; and in economy, I recline slowly to make sure there’s no jolt or accident behind (even in Dragonair’s spacious new economy seats).

(When I’m in Cathay Pacific’s A340/747 economy class, or am on Dragonair’s B-HLG or B-HLL, I don’t need to do the above.)


Dragonair Airbus A330-300 B-HLG/HLL Economy Class

It’s not like anyone will get hurt that way.


The most obnoxious seated-behind-me-mate I’ve had was from Hong Kong to Beijing on Dragonair’s A320. Wow, the lady kept trying to keep my seat upright (I’m not the person to keep reclining and reclining until a fistfight is raised), and I had to keep my seat upright throughout the whole flight, which, on a Dragonair A320 with only 30″ seat pitch, was truly annoying. After attempting twice to recline my seat, I politely asked if I could recline, which she said “no” (as if I was trying to ask for a make out), which (albeit the expression) would be more straightforward then using a gadget to stop the person from reclining.

Bottom line on the Knee Defender

I think I should stop rambling. Basically…



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