United Airlines flight attendants have been told to be on the lookout for human traffickers, with law enforcement, charities, and other national agencies expecting an uptick in human trafficking activity in and around Phoenix ahead of Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl.
In a special bulletin, United Airlines warned that ‘mega events’ like the Super Bowl often attracted human trafficking and, in this case, the airline is most concerned about sex trafficking, which is aimed at taking “advantage of the influx of money brought in by the large crowds.”
More than 100,000 people are expected to descend on Phoenix to watch the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Philadelphia Eagles at the Super Bowl LVII
For a number of years, airline workers have been placed at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking, and thousands of flight attendants have received specialist training to identify potential victims and perpetrators.
One of the most high-profile cases of a human trafficking victim being saved was when an Alaska Airlines flight attendant became suspicious of an older, well-dressed man travelling with a young teenage girl who “looked like she had been through pure hell.”
The flight attendant left a note in the bathroom for the victim and when the young girl wrote a reply asking for help, the flight attendant was able to get in touch with law enforcement in San Francisco.
But fearing for the safety of its own flight attendants, as well as potential victims, United has ordered its crew members only to engage in “casual conversation” if they suspect a human trafficking incident.
“Never confront the suspected trafficker or attempt covert communication with the victim that may jeopardize their safety,” the special Super Bowl bulletin warns.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has called on its members to show heightened vigilance over the new few days, especially on flights to and from Phoenix.
Sometimes increased vigilance can lead to mistakes – such as an incident in June 2021 when a Delta Air flight attendant wrongly accused a man of trafficking his special needs daughter. Or the Frontier crew members who called the cops on a black passenger who was accused of trafficking her white sister.
But just like in these cases, United’s flight attendants have been told there will be no disciplinary consequences if a suspected human trafficking case turns out to be false. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.
This is stupid. Despite what repeating stories like this leads people to believe, mega events are not a driver of human trafficking. The prostitution that occurs in the phoenix region will happen regardless of if the super bowl is there or not.