Passenger Delays Flight Over Fears That Ivy League Economist's Math Equation Is a Terror Threat

An American Airlines flight to Syracuse was delayed two hours after a woman believed a University of Pennsylvania professor might be a terrorist.

It's all Greek--or, perhaps more appropriately, Arabic--to a Syracuse-bound passenger who recently delayed a flight two hours over fears that an Ivy League professor's math equation signaled a terrorist threat.

While en route to give a speech in Canada on Thursday night, University of Pennsylvania economics professor Guido Menzio was working through a differential equation on a pad of paper before takeoff.

While they look complicated to most people and likely induce panic in many students, the high-level math equation reportedly looked like the ramblings of a terrorist to the woman sitting beside Menzio.

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While the American Eagle regional flight was taxiing, the woman told staff of the flight--which was operated by Air Wisconsin--that she was ill and wanted to get off, American Airlines spokesman Casey Norton told

According to Norton, the crew agreed to the woman's request. However, the woman change her story once she exited the plane and said she feared the Italian, curly-haired man next to her was a threat.

Menzio was then pulled aside and questioned by airport security "from the privacy of the jetway," Norton said.

"I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness," Menzio told the Associated Press. "Instead, they tell me that the woman was concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper."

Menzio said he was treated respectfully by authorities, who were satisfied with the professor's explanation.

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After the long delay, during which the woman never reboarded the flight, the plane finally left Philadelphia.

American Airlines, whose regional branch is called American Eagle, stressed that safety is their top priority and that they must listen to all passenger concerns.

Weeks earlier, a similar incident occurred when a UC Berkeley student made a fellow passenger nervous by speaking Arabic on the phone while waiting for a flight to take off.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi said last month that he was removed from the Southwest flight and barred from taking another on that airline.

A spokesperson told at the time: "Based upon the reported comments and further discussion, our Flight Crew made the decision to deny boarding to this Customer."

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