Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press scored an interview with James Beach, the man who touched off the firestorm.
And all I can say is… wow.
On the one hand he says he is “embarrassed by the way the confrontation unfolded and that he regrets his behavior.” The knee defender is against the rules at all of the major US airlines and he acknowledges that passengers have a right to recline their seat, but he plans to continue to use it anyway.
Here’s how he goes about it:
“I put them in maybe a third of the time. Usually, the person in front tries (to recline) their seat a couple of times, and then they forget about it,” Beach said. The device comes with a courtesy card to tell passenger that you’ve blocked them, but he doesn’t use it.
“I’d rather just kind of let them think the seat is broken, rather than start a confrontation,” he said.
Here’s how he describes the situation having gone down:
When the flight attendants came through the cabin to serve beverages, the woman said her seat was broken. That’s when Beach told one of them about the Knee Defender. The flight attendant asked him to remove the device, and Beach said he did.
“As soon I started to move it, she just full force, blasted the seat back, right on the laptop, almost shattered the screen. My laptop came flying onto my lap,” he said.
Beach complained, saying that he couldn’t work like that, but the flight attendant informed him that the woman had the right to recline. Both passengers were sitting in United’s Economy Plus section, which offers 4 more inches of legroom than the rest of coach.
His reply: “You asked me to let her recline a few inches, and she just took 100 percent of it.”
That’s when Beach’s anger boiled over. He said he pushed the woman’s seat forward and put the Knee Defender back in. The woman stood up and threw a cup of soda — not water, as previously reported water — at him.
Apparently when the flight diverted to Chicago, and he was not allowed to continue on to Denver, he bought a ticket the next day on Spirit (which flies once-daily O’Hare to Denver). He’s 6’1″. Spirit’s economy seats have 28 inches of pitch, compared to 35 inches in economy plus on a United Airbus. Hope he was happy with Spirit’s non-reclining seats.
Although of course the woman sitting in front of him shouldn’t have thrown her drink, I can understand her frustration. I certainly hope I never find myself seated in front of this gentleman, and I do try not to recline or at least not recline all the way when seated in coach with someone behind me.
The problem here was clearly James Beach, don’t you agree?