In may 2016, Ivy League economist Guido Menzio was escorted off an American Airlines plane after the woman sitting next to him mistook his mathematical differential equations for a ‘terrorist code’.
Menzio, from the University of Pennsylvania, was flying to Ontario where he was booked to present a paper at Queen’s University.
His neighbouring female passenger saw him scribbling differential equations on a notepad and was alarmed when he choose to focus on his work rather than engage in small talk, the Washington Post reports. She then decided to feign illness and hand a note to a nearby flight attendant.
The American Airlines plane remained on the tarmac as the female passenger was taken off the plane and, shortly after, Menzio was escorted off the plane by an ‘FBI looking man’. After being questioned, his writing was evaluated by the men in black and he was ultimately deemed to be a non-credible threat … you’d think they were making a game theory pun.
Menzio wrote on Facebook: “They ask me about my neighbor, 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.”
Mr Menzio said he was “treated respectfully” but criticised the airline protocols which failed to collect sufficient intelligence. He told the Washington Post that airlines have “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 else could they kick you off a plane for? Speaking Arabic? That could never happen … oh wait … YouTube blogger Adam Saleh got kicked off a Delta plane in December 2016 for speaking Arabic.