How to Spot Human Trafficking at Airports


With summer upon us and school out of session, vacation season is at its peak, which means more people traveling and spending time in airports.

But it’s not just holiday travelers who fly on air planes, airports are also hubs for human trafficking – a place where adults or children are transported into forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

You may recall the story from February 2017 of the Flight Attendant working for Alaska Airlines who spotted a little girl (between 14 and 15-years-old), traveling with a notably well-dressed older man. The stark contrast between the two set off an instinctive unsettling feeling for Shelia Fedrick, the flight attendant. Fortunately, this story ended positively when Fedrick spotted the victim and reported it the pilot immediately, which ultimately led to police seizing the trafficker and rescuing the victim.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The TSA reports two million people fly every day in the U.S. And there is a strong possibility people aboard a flight might be connected to human trafficking. Most of these situations go unnoticed, but trust that it does happen right under our noses. To make sure you do your part, be aware of these warning signs:

  1. A traveler is not dressed appropriately to travel – a victim may be less well dressed than their companions or they’re carrying very few personal items.
  2. When a passenger can’t provide details of their departure, location, destination or flight information whatsoever – traffickers avoid raising suspicion about their crime so they don’t tell their victims where they’re going or share any details for that matter.
  3. When the two passengers seem to communicate scripted or rehearsed with inconsistent stories – sometimes traffickers coach their victims on what to say to avoid getting caught.
  4. A person may be a victim if they appear to be controlled, closely watched, followed and not allowed to move freely around the airport. Traffickers keep a very close eye on their victims to ensure they don’t escape.
  5. Victims might have bruises on them
  6. When their boarding passes or identification is carried by someone else
  7. When they are not allowed to speak, it’s like someone must speak on their behalf

Keep a close eye on these small warning signs that can make a big impact on the victim you’re scouting. Trafficking is happening right under our noses and it’s our responsibility to be aware and take action. You could be saving someone’s life.