Man Questioned Over Security Concerns Because He Was Doing Maths On A Flight


Man Questioned Over Security Concerns Because He Was Doing Maths On A FlightGuidomenzio/Facebook/PA

A man was once questioned on a plane because he was scribbling in a ‘foreign’ language, which turned out to be maths.

Back in 2016, Guido Menzio, an Italian-born University of Pennsylvania economics professor, found himself in a bizarre situation prior to the take-off of his American Airlines flight from Philadelphia from Syracuse.


Most people you see on flights are either listening to music, reading a magazine or catching some shut-eye. However, Menzio’s efforts to solve a lengthy mathematical equation prompted suspicions from a fellow passenger, who believed he may have been a ‘credible threat’.

Economics professor Guido Menzio. (University of Pennsylvania)University of Pennsylvania

The story recently resurfaced on Reddit, with one user joking, ‘It’s Al-Gebra, not Al-Qaeda.’

Menzio had been sitting next to a woman who said she was feeling ill, and was soon escorted off the plane. It turns out she felt absolutely fine, but wanted to raise concerns about her fellow passenger.


‘At some point during this process [Menzio] got up and expressed concern to the pilot for her wellbeing and wanted to know if she was okay,’ an American Airlines spokesperson earlier told BuzzFeed News.

American Airlines said he wasn't 'interrogated or detained.' (PA Images)PA Images

‘At that point there was a conversation and [staff] talked to him and the captain quickly determined there was no validity to her concerns,’ they explained. Menzio, considered to be a decorated Ivy League economist, laughed when he first heard why she was worried, and the pilot was reportedly embarrassed.

‘Nobody was detained or interrogated. This was a conversation about these concerns. Any time a customer raises concerns, that is something we are going to have conversations about,’ the spokesperson said.


Menzio told The Washington Post he was ‘treated respectfully throughout’, but felt frustrated by a ‘broken system that does not collect information efficiently’.

‘A security protocol that is too rigid – in the sense that once the whistle is blown everything stops without checks – and relies on the input of people who may be completely clueless. What might prevent an epidemic of paranoia? It is hard not to recognise in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump’s voting base,’ he said.

Responding on Reddit, one user joked, ‘A foreigner? Travelling by air? Well that’s certainly suspicious. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.’


‘Is some halfwit being nervous a good reason to question someone? Why would they even act on the feelings of some random person?’ another asked. ‘This is some Harold and Kumar sh*t,’ a third commented.

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Topics: Life, American Airlines, Now, US


BuzzFeed News and 1 other
  1. BuzzFeed News

    A Guy Says He Was Questioned On A Plane For Doing Math During A Flight

  2. The Washington Post

    Opinion: Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight

Cameron Frew
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