Economics Professor Gets Profiled as a Terrorist for Doing Math on a Flight

An economics professor was temporarily removed from his flight after a fellow passenger thought he was a terrorist because of his math scribblings.

Guido Menzio, a renowned University of Pennsylvania economics professor, was aboard an American Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday when he was removed from the flight and questioned by airline security, reported the Washington Post.

He was traveling to Ontario, Canada for a scheduled talk about his working paper on menu costs and price dispersion at Queen’s University.

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The curly-haired, Italian Ivy League economist was reportedly solving a differential equation on a notepad when the woman who sat next to him expressed suspicions to the airline staff that he might be a terrorist because of his weird writings. She also claimed that she did not feel well and was too ill to take the flight.

Instead of taking off as scheduled, the plane returned to the gate and the woman was escorted out by airline staff. Menzio was then met later by investigators who questioned him about the allegations.

“They ask me about my neighbor,” he recounted in a Facebook post. “I tell them I noticed nothing strange. They tell me she thought I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper. I laugh. I bring them back to the plane. I showed them my math.”

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Casey Norton, a spokesperson for American Airlines, said the their crew simply followed protocol by assisting the ill passenger and then investigating her allegations. He confirmed that the accusations were proven false. After the investigation that caused a two-hour delay of the flight, Menzo was allowed to re-board the plane.

While Menzio  said he was “treated respectfully throughout,” he thinks that a system that “relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless” is frustrating.

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