Commercial airlines make for easy punching bags. Delays, uncomfortable seats, and smarmy flight attendants have all led to more than a few angry Twitter rants, forgetting the fact that the same airline charging you $20 for a checked bag also safely hurled you ten of thousands of feet into the air and safely back to the ground again. But you know, being 15 minutes behind schedule sounds just awful too.
But in fairness, the causes of some delays don’t sound very life threatening. The New York Times did a bit of a deep dive into one such cause: malfunctioning coffee makers. Turns out it’s a little more complicated than just switching out the Mr. Coffee machine.
Onboard coffee machines aren’t your run-of-the-mill brew pots. Ranging from $7,000 to $20,000 – the cost of many high end espresso machines – these brewers have to meet pretty strict FAA approval standards to ensure that making of cup of subpar coffee doesn’t turn the entire airplane into a giant tube of fire rocketing towards the earth like a low-rent SCUD missile. Safety precautions including circuit breakers and wiring insulation help protect against fires and make it so we can all safely complain about that person next to us not sharing the armrest.
And whenever one of these mile high brew systems malfunctions, it takes a maintenance crew to make sure it’s just the brewer and not some larger electrical problem. And once it has been determined to be just a coffee-related snafu, most crews can replace it rather efficiently, but it still involves disconnecting the water and shutting off the power to the entire plane, which is the where the majority of the time sink comes from.
While broken coffee machines may sound like an inconsequential issue not worthy of any delay (though not to me; I take it as my inalienable right as an American to drink coffee anywhere and at any time), they are no trivial matter. So maybe cut the airline a little slack next time they cause you some minor inconvenience. But that TSA though. They’re the worst, right?
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.