Ivy League economist's math equation sparked a terrorism scare, delayed flight

Credit: Spencer Platt

Credit: Spencer Platt

Advanced math generally doesn't rank high on the list of potential reasons a flight can be delayed, but on Thursday, a flight was delayed after a passenger was found writing what turned out to be a math equation.

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A woman on an American Airlines flight from Pennsylvania to Syracuse reportedly had concerns about the man sitting next to her and told crew members she was worried about her seatmate's behavior.

An economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania said he was the man involved in the more than two-hour delay. Guido Menzio was traveling on a connecting flight to Queen's University in Ontario to give a lecture about mathematics and working on an equation while waiting for takeoff.

Menzio, 40, told The Washington Post he suspected xenophobia was part of the problem. Menzio is Italian, speaks with an accent and suggested his dark, curly hair, olive skin and other features might have been part of the woman's concerns. He admitted he did shy away from small talk with the woman but said it was because he was engrossed in his work.

Menzio said that after the woman voiced her concerns, he was told he was suspected of terrorism because of the "strange things" he was writing in his notepad.

Despite the inconvenience, he told The Washington Post he was "treated respectfully." Menzio said what bothered him the most was that the airline didn't "collect information efficiently."

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