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Human Trafficking: If You Fly, You're On the Front Lines

Follow your instincts if you see something suspicious—and call for help.

When it comes to human trafficking, the airlines are half of the equation. That’s where Sandy Dhuyvetter, executive producer and host of TravelTalkRADIO and BusinessTravelRADIO and a board member for the nonprofit group Airline Ambassadors International, spends her time—in airports, training their staffs and airline flight crews. She has also trained tour directors and done the corporate training for Sabre, which signed the ECPAT Code last September. The majority of Airline Ambassadors’ members are flight attendants who, as she describes it, “are on the front lines.

What Dhuyvetter finds is that as she educates her trainees on the issue, “they get very tied to this because they realize they’ve probably already seen it. There’s a lot of guilt involved. They think: ‘How could I have not known about it?’”

As Nancy Rivard, president of Airline Ambassadors, has been quoted as saying: “Every day I talk to airline attendants who say, ‘There was a girl on my flight who didn’t look normal.’”  

So what can you do when you’re flying and see something or someone suspicious? “Go by your intuition,” Dhuyvetter says. She cites a single day where four instances of trafficking were reported by passengers and crews, and all four turned out to be valid.

In an ideal world, she says, the best thing to do would be to report what you see to the flight attendant, who could go to the pilot. “But some pilots don’t want to deal with it.” She recommends using the Homeland Security Tip Line, which is staffed 24 hours a day. “You can do it anonymously and there are people there who can help.”


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