When flight attendant Shelia Fedrick saw an untidy girl sitting beside an older, well-dressed man on one of her flight, she was disturbed.
She said that the teenager looked like she had been through pure hell, and the man would not let her speak to the girl.
The attendant left a note for the girl in the plane’s toilet asking is she needed help. It was learned that the girl was a victim of human trafficking. Fedrick’s alertness helped to save her.
The pilot informed the police, and they were waiting when the plane landed.
The 2011 incident on Alaska Airlines was reported in US media this week, as charity Airline Ambassadors seeks to train airline staff in ways to combat human trafficking. Airline Ambassadors’ website says a trafficking victim may appear afraid of uniformed security, unsure of their destination and nervous. They may also provide scripted answers, and be wearing clothing unsuitable for their destination. Traffickers, meanwhile, might answer questions for the victim, observe the victim persistently, and may not know their name or personal information, Airline Ambassadors added.
Nancy Rivard is founder of the Airline Ambassadors: “We tell people not to try to rescue because you can endanger the victim and yourself.” They teach attendants to get the pilot to radio the airport.
In Ms. Fedrick’s case, she managed to communicate discreetly with the girl after whispering to her to go to the plane toilet. She left a note on the mirror for the teenager, who “wrote on the note she needed help,” The girl is now attending college, and has stayed in touch with Fedrick.