Airline attendant discovers and saves human-trafficking victim mid-flight

It was a close call

Sheila Fedrick, who works for Alaska Airlines, felt something was wrong when she noticed the teenaged girl in one of the rows – a bit disheveled, greasy blond hair, and a well-dressed older man next to her who would become quickly defensive in conversation. 

“I left a note in one of the bathrooms. She wrote back and said ‘I need help.'”, Sheila told NBC.

Fedrick immediately told the pilot, who informed police. Upon landing, police were waiting in the terminal and arrested the perpetrator. Sheila says she keeps in contact with the girl today, who is now attending college. 

It’s the kind of true account that both gives us hope and makes us want to know how we can help.

Who knows what’s possibly going on around us in broad daylight in seemingly normal situations like a plane flight? What can we do?

Know the signs

Sheila’s story is one from 2011, discussed at a group called Airline Ambassadors during a 100-person training to better identify the signs of human trafficking and how to help victims at a moment’s notice. 

To know what to look for, you first have to know what is being dealt with. 

Human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment and/or movement of someone within or across borders, through the abuse of power/position with the intent of forced exploitation, commercial or otherwise.” (Human Trafficking Center)

Signs of trafficking categorically include:

🚨 Poor mental health or abnormal behavior (usually fearful and anxious after bringing up law enforcement, tense, paranoid, avoids eye contact)

🚨 Poor physical health (appears malnourished; shows signs of abuse or restraint)

🚨 Lack of control (few or no personal possessions, not permitted or able to speak for themselves)

🚨 Other (loss of sense of time, whereabouts, inconsistency in stories)

Please refer to this list for more from Polaris, ‘a global leader in the fight to eradicate modern slavery’ . Visit the Human Trafficking Center site here to educate yourself on the epidemic of human trafficking and how to disrupt it. 

They’re close to home

Globally, there are currently 20.9 million victims of human trafficking (including state imposed forced labor, forced labor exploitation, and forced sexual exploitation) and, like Sheila’s encounter, are perhaps among us in our everyday lives. We must educate ourselves on the epidemic of human trafficking, be aware of what and who is around us, and stand up for those who can’t, using our voice for them. 

Learn. Look. Lead. 

The world needs more Sheilas,
Photo Adrienne Bingham
Adrienne Bingham
Blog Coordinator

No guilt trips, no sad stories. Just a chance to do something good.