Human Trafficking is a worldwide epidemic and cabin crew can help by identifying those marked for exploitation and carried aboard commercial airliners. Flight attendant veteran Sherry Saehlenou, Principal, CA Training Solutions, LLC presented “In Plane Sight, Human Trafficking, They Could Be On Your Flight ... Would You Know?” – a sobering and difficult-to-hear message to a packed audience during a cabin crew session on Day 2 of WATS 2016.

“You as flight attendants are in a unique position and could be the last person to help,” said Sherry Saehlenou, Principal with CA Training Solutions. “Be observant, especially when they [children and young women typically] are traveling alone” or with a person that doesn’t appear to be a parent or relative.

Saehlenou said there are signs that these individuals are being trafficked. These passengers will avoid eye contact, deferring to the adult traveling with them, Saehlenou said. The individuals can appear drugged or confused and have physical signs of abuse. They also do not have freedom of movement and some are inappropriately dressed for the environment to where he/she is flying.

Obtain additional information about the person in a non-confrontational manner and then notify the Captain immediately, Saehlenou said.

Jet Blue Airways and Aer Lingus have implemented trafficking training programs for cabin crew and Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are said to be considering similar programs.

However all training efforts are voluntary, but need to be “mandatory,” Saehlenou said. She was unaware of any regulatory authority worldwide that requires trafficking training for cabin crew. There is some language in proposed U.S. legislation, according to the Association of Flight Attendants International, but it has not yet moved forward.

“I think the airlines are aware of the problem, but what is needed is an awareness program with the traveling public and airlines,” Saehlenou told CAT following her presentation.

Flight attendants wanting to learn more about the trafficking and ways to fight it can contact Airline Ambassadors International, an advocacy group that helps orphans and vulnerable children worldwide.

Between 600,000 and 800,000 victims are trafficked annually. Eighty-percent are trafficked for sexual exploitation, 20% for unpaid servitude. Illegal trafficking is a $150 billion industry.

“I had no idea just how vast this problem was when I began researching this problem, she said.