NEW YORK (AP) — The businessman whose dispute with a fellow airline passenger over a reclined seat sparked a national debate about air-travel etiquette says he's embarrassed by the way the confrontation unfolded and regrets his behavior.
But don't expect James Beach to stop using the Knee Defender, a $22 gadget that attaches to a passenger's tray table and prevents the person in front from reclining. He just plans to be nicer about it.
"I'm pretty ashamed and embarrassed by what happened," Beach told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I could have handled it so much better."
The argument became so tense that the pilots of the Aug. 24 fight diverted the Boeing 737 to Chicago. An AP story about the incident started a broad public discussion of whether passengers should be allowed to recline. In the days that followed, two other flights were diverted because of similar disagreements.
Beach, 48, reached out to the AP to clarify a few things about the episode, primarily that he initially complied with flight attendant instructions to remove the device.
For the record, he said, he never reclines his seat.
"You have the right, but it seems rude to do it," said Beach, who is 6-foot-1.
The dispute occurred on the final leg of Beach's trip back to his home near Denver. After returning to the U.S. from a business trip to Moscow, he went on standby for an earlier flight for the leg from Newark, New Jersey, to Denver and was given a middle seat. When the jet was airborne, Beach took out his laptop to review a contract for his company, which develops waste recycling facilities, primarily in Russia. He used the Knee Defender — a Christmas gift a few years ago from his wife — to prevent the woman in front from reclining.
U.S. airlines prohibit use of the Knee Defender, but the devices are not illegal.
"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 passengers 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.
Beach, who said he flies 75,000 to 100,000 miles a year, wasn't so lucky this time.
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.
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