Sky Talk

Passenger alarmed by economics professor doing math on a flight

mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

An American Eagle flight was delayed several hours last Thursday after a female passenger expressed concern about the behavior of a fellow passenger.

As the plane was taxing to depart Philadelphia for Syracuse, the female passenger told the flight crew she felt ill and wanted to return to the gate. As she disembarked flight 3950, she notified the crew that she was concerned about the behavior of another passenger.

That passenger was Guido Menzio, an award-winning Italian economics professor from the University of Pennsylvania. And his alarming behavior apparently was working on differential equations as the flight prepared to take-off.

“I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness,” he said in an email to 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.”

American spokesman Casey Norton said the female passenger asked to be rebooked on to another flight. Menzio then gets up to talk to the pilot to express his concern for the woman’s well-being and at that point, the captain and Menzio exit the aircraft to have a private conversation about her allegations.

“The captain quickly determined there is no validity to the woman’s concerns and the flight should continue,” American spokesman Casey Norton said.

Norton added that Menzio was allowed to reboard the flight, which continued after a two-hour delay. Although airline security was involved in the incident, law enforcement was not called, he said.

“When there are disputes between customers and passengers, we do our best to resolve those peacefully,” Norton said. “In this case, the flight crew wanted to resolve it as peacefully as possible and that required private conversations with each of the passengers involved.”

The flight was operated by American Airlines’ regional partner, Air Wisconsin. Norton said the carrier followed protocol in the situation.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Menzio said he was “treated respectfully throughout,” but was troubled by the incident.

“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,” Menzio said.

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