An Alaska Airlines flight attendant thwarted a human trafficking incident after noticing something amiss about a teenage passenger and the older man accompanying her.
Local TV station 10 News reports that Shelia Frederick, 49, became suspicious when she saw that the girl looked “all disheveled and out of sorts.” When Frederick tried to talk to the girl, the male passenger reportedly became defensive and the teenager would not speak.
In a whisper, Frederick told the girl to go to the bathroom. She left a note for her there, and the girl “wrote on the note that she needed help,” Frederick said. She notified the pilots, and police were waiting at the terminal when the flight landed.
Because so many human traffickers move through airports — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 2,000 traffickers in the last year alone, according to NBC News — flight attendants are being taught to spot the signs of passengers in distress: adults and children who look ashamed, frightened, or drugged; passengers traveling with someone who does not appear to be a relative; passengers who speak for a suspected victim and will not let him or her out of sight.
Airline Ambassadors, a non-profit that works in conjunction with Customs Border Protection, conducts seminars on human trafficking for airport staff, according to NBC. The organization is currently lobbying Congress to make such training obligatory for American flight attendants.
Frederick spotted the hallmark signs of trafficking mentioned above, noting that the young girl and the well-dressed older man seemed mismatched. She also said the girl “looked like she had been through pure hell.” Now Frederick is being hailed as a hero for acting quickly on her honed instincts.
Read the full story at NBC News.