Plane Grounded After Man Mistaken For Terrorist After Doing Algebra On American Airlines Flight


Last Thursday, a 40-year-old Italian man – dark, curly hair, tanned skin, foreign accent – boarded a flight from Philadelphia over in the States to nearby Syracuse.

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As soon as he settled in his seat, he started scribbling into a notepad he brought along. Somehow this didn’t sit right with the passenger sat next to him so she decided to try out some small talk.

She asked:

Is Syracuse home?

He replied ‘curtly’, before going back to his notepad:


He deflected a couple more questions and was basically way too laser-focused on his scribbling for her comfort, causing her to flag down a flight attendant and hand them a written note of her own.


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The flight was delayed for about half an hour before the attendant returned to the female passenger and asked her if she felt okay to fly or if she was still “too sick”.

She said she was OK, but can’t have sounded too convincing because the American Airlines flight 3950 remained on the tarmac.

Then it turned right around and headed back to the gate and the woman was escorted off the plane. Meanwhile a crew member made an announcement that they had to refuel the plane.

Moments later the man was escorted off the plane too and taken to meet some kind of agent, who asked him what he knew about the woman sat next to him.

He assumed they wanted his help in piecing together what was wrong with the woman, but he said she didn’t seem ill or anything to him.

In the end, it turns out the woman wasn’t sick at all (of course) – she thought this guy was a terrorist because of a) his appearance and b) he’d been scribbling in a script she didn’t recognise on his notepad. Possibly a plot to blow up the plane.

Well turns out that script wasn’t Arabic or terrorist code or any other foreign language – it was math. A differential equation, to be exact.


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In fact if the flight attendants had just bothered to Google this passenger’s name – Guido Menzio – they would have found he’s a highly-decorated Ivy League economist. He was even awarded the prestigious Carlo Alberto Medal last year, given to the best Italian economist under 40. All easily Google-able. He was on his way to Syracuse to connect to a flight to Ontario where he was due to give a talk at Queen’s University.

Menzio showed the authorities his notepad and was allowed to return to his seat. He said the pilot seemed embarrassed. The other passenger never reboarded the flight.

I guess you can’t be mad at someone for seeing something & saying something which we’re always encouraged to do in this climate, especially on planes or any other form of public transport. Still, how embarrassing. No wonder the woman didn’t re-board the flight, she’s probably still cringing as we speak.

Massive few days for people being imbeciles on planes anyway.


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