Two days ago I took off from BUR in relatively windy (although dry) conditions. Flightradar showed departure from runway 33, and winds were recorded roughly mid 20s kts from the N-NNE direction. Temperature was mild at mid-60s. The aircraft was a B739.

Prior to door closure, after everyone had been seated, the captain asked for two volunteers to take a different flight. His reasoning as explained to us involved a combination of the windy conditions and the length of the plane (not stated exactly as such, but in a nutshell involved these two factors). The crew did not specify a section of the aircraft that the volunteers needed to be from, nor did they reshuffle passengers after two volunteers left. It was a nearly full flight, but not overbooked as everyone was already seated.

My confusion is why a plane taking off into strong headwinds would require less weight, when headwinds theoretically reduce runway takeoff length requirements and make takeoff easier, generally speaking. Because the captain mentioned the length of the plane as a factor, and knowing that the 739 has some more significant tailstrike risks, my hypothesis is that the nose pitch and/or flap setting in windy conditions has something to do with it, but I can't fully understand why. Can anyone explain why two passengers needed to be removed?

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    $\begingroup$ If the weather was also windy at the destination airport, it could’ve been that the pilots wanted to take more fuel for holding with them, more fuel = less payload. But that’s just speculation. $\endgroup$ – Florian Jan 3 '19 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ Two passengers, say 180 lbs each, 360 lbs plus lets say two 50 lb bags each, so 460 lbs total = 76 gallons of fuel. Just a fraction of the fuel carried, 7,837 US gal, or <1%. Doesn't seem like available fuel would be the issue. Similarly, 460 lbs is just a fraction of the Max Take Off weight o Max Landing Weight, 187,700 lb and 157,300 lb. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Jan 3 '19 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ @CrossRoads yes but perhaps they were several thousand lbs below MTOW at the original fuel load, but decided due to higher headwinds they needed to add a couple thousand pounds, which forced a reduction of ZFW by 500 or so to stay under MTOW. Who knows, but that sort of scenario is the only thing that makes sense. I'll also guess that if the reason was given by the FA or gate agent after being told by the capt, the story morphed a bit in the retelling. $\endgroup$ – John K Jan 3 '19 at 19:05

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