An economics professor was escorted off an American Airlines flight after the passenger seated next to him alerted airline personnel to suspicious notes he was writing.
Guido Menzio, a 40-year-old University of Pennsylvania Economics Professor, was scribbling math equations, the Guardian reports.
Menzio was flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse May 5 to speak at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. While waiting for the aircraft to take off, he was solving a differential equation.
The woman seated next to him suspected he was a terrorist.
“The passenger sitting next to me calls the stewardess, passes her a note,” Menzio wrote on Facebook.
The plane, which had left the gate, turned around and the woman seated next to him left—she had complained of not feeling well to airline personnel.
Menzio wrote he was asked to disembark the plane and was “met by some FBI looking man-in-black.”
Menzio, who has dark, curly hair, olive skin, and a foreign accent, was told by the agent that he was suspected of terrorism.
“They ask me about my neighbor,” he wrote. “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.”
By the time Menzio was removed from the plane, it had sat on the tarmac for more than an hour and a half, the Washington Post reports.
After showing the authorities his differential equation, he was allowed to return to his seat.
Security personnel reportedly determined he was not a “credible threat.”
He said the pilot seemed embarrassed.
The flight finally took off more than two hours after its scheduled departure.
The passenger who reported Menzio did not re-board, and American Airlines has confirmed she asked to be rebooked on a different flight.
Menzio said he was “treated respectfully throughout” the ordeal, but he remains baffled and frustrated by a “broken system that does not collect information efficiently.”
He thinks the female passenger was ignorant, and is troubled by “a security protocol that is too rigid—in the sense that once a whistle is blown everything stops without checks—and relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless.”