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You Won't Believe What's Been Causing Recent Flight Delays

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Running late for a flight? Cross your fingers that the plane's coffeemaker is broken.

An "inordinate amount of coffeemaker problems" are causing flight delays, American Airlines' chief of operations says — and causing passengers to lose their lids. The New York Times reports that defective coffeemakers require a thorough check since any issues could suggest a problem with the plane's circuitry. Airlines don't keep track of such delays specifically, but Delta and United also acknowledge that they do happen.

A Twitter user says her American flight last month was delayed 45 minutes thanks to a faulty coffeemaker. A man says his hourlong flight in November was delayed 40 minutes for the same reason. And this isn't anything new: A Dallas banker told the Wall Street Journal in 2012 that a leaky coffeepot also grounded one of his flights.

Because planes' coffeemakers are so elaborate — they include circuit breakers, wiring insulation and special latches to hold the pot in place, and they're sometimes hooked up to water tanks treated with chemicals — plenty of things can go wrong.

Of course, you want officials to identify a problem that might present a fire risk. But even the smallest of issues can require the machine to be disabled (no water or power) or swapped for a functional one. Airlines realize this is an issue: American is considering replacing all of its machines, which can cost up to $20,000 apiece. In the meantime, know that flight delays blamed on coffeemakers are for your own safety.

As a pilot wrote to the Times in 2002, it's not worth risking "an in-flight electrical fire for the sake of not having your flight delayed."

(In related news, take a look at where flights are delayed most.)