Leave your Economic Modeling at Home when flying the “Doing What We Do Best” Airlines

Which appears to be taking ethnic looking civilians off their flights.

Perhaps economists should not do their modeling on American Airline flights or for that matter other airlines. It seems one 40-year-old man with curly dark hair and olive skin coloring was quietly sitting in his seat scribbling calculations on a notepad. His seatmate on this puddle-jumper from Philadelphia to Syracuse was a young 30ish blonde haired woman carrying a red tote bag.

As the story goes, the young woman was curious about his unrecognizable note taking. After being rebuffed by a simple “no” from the man about whether his home was Syracuse, she took to her book and jotted down a note and gave it to the flight attendant. The plane door shut and after a delay on the tarmac, the plane began to move to the runway to take off only to be diverted back to the gate.

At the gate, the woman who had said she was sick earlier (in her note to the flight attendant) was taken off the plane. A short time later, the pilot came back to the unsuspecting man and he was escorted off the plane and asked what he knew about the 30-something blonde haired woman who sat next to him on the plane. He admitted to not knowing anything other than her acting strangely.

The woman had seen his note taking and did not understand the equations he was writing. In her note to the flight attendant, she stated she was ill. Not understanding the equations he was writing on his notepad, she suspected it to be secret code for some plot to be hatched on Flight 3950 of American Airlines. Upon deboarding the plane, she explained to the officials what she suspected; “she believed him to be a terrorist and his note taking a secret code.”

Wearing “navy Diesel jeans and a red Lacoste sweater, a look he described as ‘simple elegance;'” the Carlo Alberto Medal winner, University of Pennsylvania Economist, Italian by birth, and tenured Professor Guido Menzio was working on “some properties of a model of price-setting he was to present” at Queens University. Apparently, like many Americans, the young woman with blond hair did not understand differential equations and mistook the equations to be secret codes.

After some embarrassing moments for the officials and the pilot listening to the Professor’s explanation on mathematical modeling, Guido Menzio was allowed to reboard the plane. He and the other passengers took off to Syracuse more than 2 hours late. The woman responsible for his being removed from the plane and questioned had taken another flight.

Ivy League economist ethnically profiled, interrogated for doing math on American Airlines flight,” Washington Post, Catherine Rampell, May 7, 2016