Economist questioned for terrorism on flight attended Northwestern

David Fishman, Reporter

FBI agents questioned a Northwestern alumnus flying from Philadelphia to Syracuse, New York, last week after his seatmate reported suspicious behavior, The Associated Press reported.

That suspicious behavior turned out to be the mathematical scribblings of Guido Menzio (Graduate School ’05), a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an economist who last year won the prestigious Carlo Alberto Medal, which is given to the best Italian economist under 40.

Menzio said in a Facebook post that the passenger sitting next to him had passed a note to the stewardess. The woman then exited the plane and, shortly after, Menzio was asked to do the same. FBI officials told him the passenger had suspected him of terrorism, so he showed them the differential equation he had been working out on his note pad.

“It’s a bit funny. It’s a bit worrisome,” Menzio wrote on Facebook. “The lady just looked at me, looked at my writing of mysterious formulae, and concluded I was up to no good. … (Donald) Trump’s America is already here. It’s not yet in power though. Personally, I will fight back.”

American Airlines spokesman Casey Norton told AP that the Air Wisconsin crew had followed protocol to take care of a sick passenger who subsequently reported Menzio’s suspicious behavior. Officials determined the threat non-credible, and the woman was rebooked on another flight.

Following the incident, bloggers accused the woman of racial profiling, based on Menzio’s dark curly hair, olive skin tone and foreign accent. As for the economics professor, he continued on to Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, to give a talk about menu costs and price dispersion.

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