American Airlines recently set out to discover and remedy the most common causes of flight delays. According to chief of operations Robert Isom, “inordinate amount of coffee maker problems” contribute to minor delays.
While we don’t know how many flights coffee makers delay throughout the industry, even one instance seems excessive. A short delay due to a coffee maker throws off the entire schedule and could affect “hundreds, if not thousands, of passengers,” said Isom.
It seems silly that something as simple as a coffee maker could delay a flight. But the process of providing in-flight coffee requires a great deal of work. The Federal Aviation Administration requires that coffee makers to be installed in a very specific way to maximize safety.
They must have circuit breakers and wiring insulation to prevent fires and an elaborate system of latches to keep the coffeepots in place during turbulence. In short, each of these features requires a lot of fancy engineering and mechanical knowledge. It also means that a malfunctioning coffee pot could actually be a safety issue. So when a coffee maker malfunctions prior to take off, it must be replaced by a spare kept on the plane for that very reason.
However, if that is not possible, a mechanic must cut the power, turn off the water, and disable the broken coffee machine before the plane can take off. Not only does this process take time, but it also means passengers will have to go coffee-less during the flight. And while passengers might not expect the perfect cup of coffee, they do at least want something.
So, while American Airlines might get some flack from their competitors for investing time and energy into improving on-flight coffee makers, we really should thank them. It could really cut down on the number of flight delays. More importantly, if all the coffee pots work well, you won’t have to spend hours trapped on a plane with a bunch of tired, un-caffeinated passengers.