An American Airlines flight attendant accidentally mistook a young girl’s father as a human trafficker on a recent flight from Seattle Tacoma Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina and called the cops on him.
Francisco De Jesus says he was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter to celebrate his eldest daughter’s graduation in Charlotte, but the trip got off to a bad start when law enforcement pulled the pair aside for questioning about their relationship.
It turns out that a flight attendant on the plane to Charlotte spotted signs that they interpreted as possible human trafficking and decided to radio ahead to get law enforcement involved.
De Jesus says that shortly after boarding in Seattle, he headed to the bathroom, and when he got back, he noticed that his daughter had a pair of souvenir ‘wings’ pinned to her top.
When he asked his daughter where she got the wings from, she explained how a flight attendant had approached and asked a series of questions, including whether she was okay, who she was traveling with and who she was visiting.
De Jesus says he didn’t think much more of it until they had arrived in Charlotte.
“As we’re deplaning, we’re greeted by several individuals. One of them who introduced himself as the head of security for the Charlotte International Airport,” he told King 5 News.
They were led through the airport and eventually told what was happening. De Jesus says that although his “heart sank” when he first found out why they had been stopped, he was able to quickly clear up the confusion, and the pair were allowed to continue their journey.
Nonetheless, De Jesus questions how a flight attendant ended up labelling him as a human trafficker in the first place. He attempted to reach out to American Airlines but didn’t get a response until he approached the media.
In response, a spokesperson for American Airlines “strives to create a positive, welcoming environment for everyone who travels with us and apologize for any misunderstanding that may have occurred.”
Flight attendants at American, as well as a number of other U.S.-based carriers, must undergo mandatory human trafficking training and receive coaching on the signs to look out for in a potential human trafficking situation.
It’s important to note, however, that flight attendants are discouraged from approaching victims or perpetrators and instead are simply asked to report their concerns to law enforcement who will handle the matter – like exactly what happened in this case.
In fact, flight attendants are encouraged to err on the side of caution and airline management reassures crew members that they won’t get in trouble if they make a mistake and report a possible human trafficking incident which turns out to be completely innocent.
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.