#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 4°C Sunday 17 January 2021

Professor interrogated after passenger reports him for doing maths on plane

The woman sitting next to him was concerned he was a terrorist because he was writing “strange things” on paper.

Image: plane seat image via Shutterstock

AN IVY LEAGUE professor said his flight was delayed because a fellow passenger thought the maths equations he was writing might be a sign he was a terrorist.

American Airlines, whose regional partner Air Wisconsin operated the flight, confirmed that the woman expressed suspicions about University of Pennsylvania economics professor Guido Menzio.

Menzio said he was flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday night and was solving a differential equation related to a speech he was set to give at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.


He said the woman sitting next to him passed a note to a flight attendant and the plane headed back to the gate. The woman was soon after asked by a flight attendant if she was too sick to fly and she was removed from the plane.

Menzio, who is Italian and has curly, dark hair, said the pilot then asked for a word and he was questioned by an official after being escorted from the plane.

“I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness,” he told The Associated Press in an email. ”Instead, they tell me that the woman was concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strage things on a pad of paper.”


Menzio said he explained what he had been doing and the flight took off soon afterward. He was treated respectfully throughout, he added. But, he said, he was concerned about a delay that a brief conversation or an Internet search could have resolved.

“Not seeking additional information after reports of ‘suspicious activity’ … is going to create a lot of problems, especially as xenophobic attitudes may be emerging,” he said.

American spokesman Casey Norton said the Air Wisconsin crew followed protocol to take care of an ill passenger and then to investigate her allegations. Norton wouldn’t specify the details of the allegations, but said officials determined them to be non-credible. The woman was rebooked on a later flight.

Read: Men who plotted Islamic State-inspired drive-by shootings in UK are jailed>

About the author:

Associated Press

Read next: