President Reagan used to say that "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" were the most terrifying words in the English language. 

Now some passengers on American Airlines, flying out of the airport named after Reagan, no less, might agree.

Oh, this story. Here's what we know. 

An American Airlines 737-800 from Washington DC (DCA) to Los Angeles (LAX) was delayed this week, after the pilot determined they were overweight. His remedy?

He ordered that "1,400 pounds of government documents" be removed from the cargo hold.

At least that's what he told the passengers, who in turn took to social media with amused incredulity.

"Sooooo... my flight is delayed because it has too much weight," tweeted passenger Robert Hernandez, a professor at the University of Southern California who was a passenger. "The pilot announced that they are now going to unload 1,400 lbs of FEDERAL PAPERWORK. wut"

Indeed, "the airline did remove 1,400 pounds of cargo," an American Airlines spokesperson, Matthew Miller, confirmed to The Washington PostThis was required because of "a weather-related weight restriction," due to storms and intense heat that required the plane to shed a few pounds.

Or more than a few.

Were they truly government documents? More than half a ton of new federal regulations headed to the Golden State, perhaps?

Miller said he didn't know. He added that American Airlines does have a U.S. Postal Service contract to deliver mail, so it's possible that's what the pilot was talking about--although that I've never heard regular U.S. mail referred to as "federal paperwork" or "government documents."

A lot of strange things happen when you fly. You can wind up witnessing stunning acts of kindness, incredible generosity, breathtaking episodes of incompetence, and both the best and the worst of humankind.

Your flight could be delayed because the pilot assaults another airline employee. You might occasionally be privy to acts of heroism. (But truly, let's hope you're never in a position to need to see such things.)

Now we can add another category of commonly felt experience: shared disbelief as an aircraft is literally grounded by federal paperwork.

Or maybe not grounded, actually.

According to FlightAware, American flight 163 actually took off on time Monday, and made it to Los Angeles at 8:15 p.m.; in fact, nine minutes early. I guess they made up the time somehow once they ditched the government documents.

And I fear this just sets us up for the political argument, as it was a flight from Washington, D.C. after all: See how efficiently we can operate, when we get rid of government regulations? 

Published on: Aug 10, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.