An American Airlines flight attendant suspected a father traveling with his teenage daughter was engaged in human trafficking, creating an unsavory situation when the flight landed in Charlotte.
Dad Traveling With 13-Year-Old Daughter Suspected Of Trafficking Her By American Airlines Flight Attendant
Francisco De Jesus was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter on AA from Seattle (SEA) to Charlotte (CLT). They were traveling to North Carolina to celebrate the graduation of his eldest daughter.
Onboard the aircraft, he rose to use the lavatory. When he returned, he noticed his daughter had American Airlines kiddie wings pinned on her. His daughter explained that a flight attendant had approached her while he was in the lavatory and asked her a series of questions, including:
- Are you ok?
- Where are you going?
- Who are going to meet?
Beyond beverage service, there was no more interaction during the flight.
When the flight landed in Charlotte, the two were met by a number of people. De Jesus explained:
“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.”
The two were led through the terminal before finally being taken aside. There, De Jesus was told that a flight attendant on his flight was concerned he was a human trafficker. He was asked a number of questions and it “quickly became clear” he was not a trafficker. The two were soon on their way.
American Airlines issued the following statement on the incident:
“At American, the safety and security of our customers and team members is our top priority. Our frontline team members are trained to navigate a variety of safety issues, including recognizing the potential signs of human trafficking. We strive to create a positive, welcoming environment for everyone who travels with us and apologize for any misunderstanding that may have occurred.”
You can watch his interview with the local NBC affiliate in Seattle below:
De Jesus comes across to me as quite reasonable and I think he is asking precisely the right question.
How does American Airlines train its flight attendants to recognize potential human traffickers? What signs are they looking for?
Here, he mentions that his daughter had a mobile phone and was watching a movie on an iPad. There is no indication she appeared anxious and
The US Department of Homeland Security offers a number of signs to identify victims of trafficking, including:
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Does s the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
The answer to every one of those questions appears to be no.
These stories interest me because it cannot be that every time a father travels with his teenage daughter he faces the chance of being detained simply for traveling with his daughter. As an avid traveler who hopes to raise a future avid traveler, I am already planning solo trips with my daughter in the years to come. How often will I be accused of being a predator or trafficker simply because I am traveling with a young girl?
From a legal and civil liberties perspective, I reject the notion of deference to erring on the side of caution. Unless there are very specific signs of distress, it is not right to accuse a man of trafficking a young woman “just in case.”
A father faced an uncomfortable situation at Charlotte Douglas Airport after an American Airlines flight attendant accused him of being a human trafficker. No doubt this was also distressing to his 13-year-old daughter. While I detest human trafficking to the degree that I support capital punishment for those guilty of such trafficking, I am deeply uncomfortable with how easy it is to accuse a man of such a heinous act. I believe American Airlines owes it to De Jesus in particular but all of us to explain how flight attendants are trained to recognize and report suspected man traffickers.