An Ivy League professor who was doing a math equation while waiting for a flight to take off, said his flight was delayed because a fellow passenger thought the math equation might be a sign he was a terrorist.
University of Pennsylvania economics professor Guido Menzio said he was flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse on Thursday night and was solving a differential equation related to a speech he was set to give at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada, the Associated Press reports.
He said the woman sitting next to him passed a note to a flight attendant and the plane headed back to the gate.
The woman was said to be too ill to take the Air Wisconsin-operated flight.
Menzio, who is Italian and has curly, dark hair, said the pilot then asked for a word and he was questioned by an official.
"I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness," he told the AP in an email.
"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 explained what he had been doing and the flight took off soon afterward.
While he said he was treated respectfully throughout he was concerned about a delay that would have been easily resolved with a brief conversation or an Internet search.
American Airlines confirmed that a woman expressed suspicions about Menzio and the airline said it followed protocol to take care of an ill passenger and then to investigate her allegations.