Last updated: 04:04 PM ET, Sat May 07 2016

Penn Professor Profiled As Potential Terrorist: For Doing Math

Impacting Travel | Rich Thomaselli | May 07, 2016

Penn Professor Profiled As Potential Terrorist: For Doing Math

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

In yet another case of "see something, say something" gone awry, a woman on an American Airlines regional jet traveling from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday passed a note to a flight attendant expressing concern that her seatmate was a terrorist writing on a notepad in a language she did not understand.

Clearly, she either never took or forgot all about high school algebra.

The man was a tenured University of Pennsylvania economics professor whose "unknown language" that the woman thught was Arabic was nothing more than algebraic formulas he was working on.

The incident ended up delaying a 41-minute flight more than 90 minutes on the ground before finally taking off, according to the Washington Post.

Prof. Guido Menzio, a native of Turin, Italy, was headed to speak at a prestigious conference in Ontario, Canada, when his origin flight from Philadelphia was delayed. Apparently, his seatmate, a woman who tried to strike up a conversation with him, saw his doodlings, saw him and mistook him for Arabic instead of Italian, and slipped a note to a flight attendant saying she was sick.

READ MORE: Have We Crossed The Line On ‘See Something, Say Something’?

When she was asked to come forward, she told the flight attendant her real concern was Menzio. The woman, who remains unidentified, never re-boarded the plane, operated by Air Wisconsin. The flight attendants alerted security.

Within minutes, Menzio wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post, he himself was asked by the pilot to step out of the plane for a moment.

“There I was met by some FBI looking man-in-black,” Menzio wrote.

He was briefly asked about his seatmate but then then attention turned to Menzio, who was told the woman thought he was a terrorist for “writing strange things on a pad of paper.”

Menzio laughed, showed authorities the piece of paper, and was allowed back on the flight.

READ MORE: How Much Authority Do Flight Crews Have To Detain Passengers?

Menzio called the incident “a bit funny (but) it’s a bit worrisome. The lady just looked at me, looked at my writing of mysterious formulae, and concluded I was up to no good. Because of that, an entire flight was delayed by 1.5 hours..."


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car: Treating Customers Special

Car Rental & Rail