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Legroom fight prompts sales of device

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A device that prevents airline seats from reclining sparked an in-flight squabble that forced a United Airlines flight from Newark to Denver to divert to Chicago.

The tiff broke out Aug. 24 between a passenger who couldn’t recline her seat and the flier behind her who had locked her seat in the upright position, using a device called the Knee Defender.

The inventor of the Knee Defender, Ira Goldman, said the quarrel was the first he has heard of since he created the device 11 years ago to protect his knees in cramped seats. He is 6-foot-3.

United and most major carriers prohibit using the device on flights. Still, the publicity that followed the United dispute generated so much traffic to Goldman’s website that it temporarily froze last week.

"It was like a nightclub that people couldn’t get into," he said. Sales of his $21.95 device have jumped, Goldman said, declining to provide numbers. The company is based in Washington, D.C.

He blames airlines for creating the demand for his invention by continuing to reduce legroom.

FLIERS WANT BYOD SAVINGS

Airlines that ask passengers to bring their own laptop computers, tablets or smartphones to watch in-flight movies and television should pass on their savings to fliers.

That is the sentiment of an overwhelming percentage of passengers questioned about in-flight entertainment. A survey by the technology startup Osurv found that 87 percent of the 1,300 adult travelers questioned believe the "bring your own device" policy saves airlines money. And 94 percent of travelers say they should benefit from the savings.

"People expect that if they have to bring their own devices they should get some benefit," said Daniel Abram, co-founder of Osurv.

The largest U.S. carrier to employ the BYOD policy is Southwest Airlines, which offers passengers who bring their own devices free access to 20 channels of live television.

But Southwest charges $8 per day for Wi-Fi access and $5 for movies.

Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times

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