Alaska Airlines flight attendant, Shelia Fedrick, noticed a teen with greasy blond hair on a flight from Seattle to San Francisco in 2011 and said she instinctively felt something was off.
The girl “looked like she had been through pure hell,” Fredrick, 49, told NBC News. She guessed the girl was about 14 or 15 years old, but traveling with a notably well-dressed older man. The contrast didn’t sit right with her.
The flight took place leading up to the 2016 Super Bowl in San Francisco, and Fedrick knew about the research suggesting spikes in sex trafficking occur during large-scale events.
Fredrick said she tried to engage the pair in conversation, but the man quickly became defensive.
“I left a note in one of the bathrooms,” Fedrick said. “She wrote back on the note and said ‘I need help.’”
Fedrick says she notified the pilot about the passengers, and when the plane landed, police were waiting in the terminal with handcuffs.
The intuition exhibited by Fedrick likely saved the victim from further captivity and is exactly the kind of awareness and discernment taught by a group called Airline Ambassadors in hopes of curbing the practice of human trafficking.
“Airports and supporting travel hotels are major hubs of entry and exit for perpetrators and victims alike,” Airline Ambassadors says. “Training is needed for airport and travel industry personnel including airport employees, hotel employees, tourism companies, ground transportation and law enforcement.”
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