There are some things you just shouldn't bring on a plane: smelly cheese, inappropriate clothing, porn. But gadgets that annoy, intrude upon others, or foster in-flight conflict are at the very top of the list. Here are seven that should be prohibited—but, at least for now, they're still all too common in planes around the world.
The Knee Defender
I've said it before: Use of the Knee Defender, a gadget that prevents plane seats from reclining, shouldn't be permitted. The Knee Defender is not banned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but airline employees have been known to proactively stop its use during flights—especially when it fosters conflict between flyers. The Knee Defender has even caused several flights to be diverted due to fights between passengers. Bottom line: It's just not safe to use the Knee Defender on a plane.
Solution: If you don't want a seatback tilting toward your face, politely ask the human in front of you to refrain from reclining.
Games That Make Noise
Fisher-Price musical games, stuffies that squeak, electronic LCD games, bells, Simon, Yahtzee, computer games, or any kind of handheld device that buzzes or beeps should be banned in the air. I've borne witness to annoying tones of handheld and computer games on many a flight. I've even seen a Yahtzee game in action on a plane. The shaking of the dice in the little blue plastic cup was cacophonous and totally unnecessary.
Solution: For electronic games, headphones are the easy and obvious solution here. Or just turn off the sound. Problem solved. Leave Yahtzee in the closet at home.
In-flight cell-phone use isn't allowed in the United States. Calls are permitted on the tarmac, however, before taxi and takeoff. So should phone calls be banned on planes at all times? Perhaps. No one wants to be trapped in an enclosed space while listening to one half of a conversation about Obamacare or fantasy football. It's an irritating way to start or end a flight.
Solution: Text, don't talk. Unless it's an emergency, save the chatting for after you deplane.
(Certain) Travel Pillows
As a travel-pillow user and economy-class flyer, I'm hesitant to discourage usage of anything that could make cramped coach seats slightly more bearable. But (you knew an exception was coming here) the intrusiveness of some less-than-mainstream travel pillows is, I think, enough to justify an industry-wide ban of those particular types. Take, for instance, the SkyRest travel pillow. This humongous inflatable pillow is like an ottoman for your lap. You lean forward and place your head on it when you want to sleep. The problem here is that you block other passengers' access to the aisle or the window—depending on where you're seated—when using this product. That's not nice.
I also came across this monstrosity: the Santa's Farting Butt Neck Pillow. Why is this not on the TSA's prohibited-items list? Use of this product puts everyone on the plane in the awkward position of wanting to strangle a stranger with a butt-shaped pillow.
Clattery Computer Keyboards
Could your computer keyboard serve as the percussion section of a jug band? If yes, please stop. Don't bring it onto a plane. Most laptop keyboards are silent, but some clunkier, older PC models may produce a distinct rapid clicking noise as you bang out work emails from your Wi-Fi-equipped airplane cabin. The sound of the plane's engine will likely drown out the noise from your rackety buttons for most people on the aircraft, but the few folks in the seats adjacent to you can probably hear your forceful typing.
Solution: Typing softly isn't really an option if you have a loud mechanical keyboard. You can try a lighter touch, but it's difficult to muffle loud computer keys. Most newer laptops have built-in keyboards that are quieter and smaller. Upgrade your equipment if you're still traveling with a clunky mechanical keyboard.
Headphones that leak sound are not a great choice for air travel, for obvious reasons: It's impolite to force nearby strangers to listen to the tinny sounds of your poorly concealed musical preferences. The key is to opt for closed headphones over open ones, which tend to leak sound. This buying guide from Lifehacker has some helpful tips for picking plane-appropriate headphones.
Solution: Read reviews. Test your headphones. Choose a style that doesn't leak sound, like noise-canceling ones or full-size headphones with ear cups that surround your ears.
FlyeBaby Airplane Comfort System
The FlyeBaby is a child seat that swings between a parent's seat belt and the seatback. Let's be real: It's a hammock that blocks all aisle access if set up in any spot that isn't a window seat. A lot of the product's Amazon reviews are pretty bad, ranging from "Any competent flight attendant is going to ask you to you put it away," to "Put the baby in it and got ready for a nice flight … until the guy in front of us put his seat back and smacked the baby on the head." A free-swinging, baby-filled hammock plus airplane turbulence and reclining seats is clearly an unsafe setup. The product's official website says it best: "FlyeBaby is not an approved safety device."
Solution: There's a world of safe, FAA-approved child seats for airplane use. This isn't one of them.