Airline Crews to Ground Sex Traffickers Heading to Super Bowl
DALLAS — Sex traffickers who plan to come to Dallas to conduct business during the Super Bowl weekend might find themselves grounded if they travel by plane.
Employees from at least five airlines will attend a special training session this week to learn how to get better at recognizing sex traffickers among travelers and learn what security measures to take.
"We want to become especially vigilant during the week before the Super Bowl," said Nancy Rivard, executive director of Airline Ambassadors, a humanitarian group of flight attendants that has aided victims of sex trafficking internationally.
The group will conduct the training in conjunction with representatives of Traffick 911, a local Christian group that launched “I’m Not Buying It,” a national public awareness campaign to combat human trafficking. The training will be held at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on Monday, six days before the NFL championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers.Rivard says this is the first time that flight staff will receive training about how to handle human trafficking.
Hundreds of sex workers are expected to come to the area for Super Bowl XLV, and flight crews are often the first line of defense for women and young girls who are victims of sex traffickers, she said.
"We don’t want to profile anyone, but we will be feeding information to security if anything looks suspicious," Rivard said.
Employees who work for American, American-Eagle, United, Quantas and Delta have already signed up for the training, which is not mandatory, Rivard said. The cutoff is 75, and more than 50 had already signed up last week.
Corey Aungst, a United flight attendant, is flying in from Pennsylvania to attend the training.
"We have guidelines for everything — from an airplane ditching to how to help a choking victim," Aungst said. "It seems antiquated to not have a policy or procedure in place for a trafficked human being."
Aungst suspects that he has missed several incidents of trafficking during six years at United, but he didn’t know what to look for. He remembers a flight from Mexico City two years ago where he suspected that a young girl was being illegally transported to the U.S by a man who claimed to be her father.
"The girl was very submissive," Aungst said. "Usually children who are with their parents are more involved and comfortable with them."
He said that he expressed his concerns to his co-workers, but they didn’t know what to do and feared they would upset the parent if they intervened and their suspicions were wrong. He says he doesn’t know what happened to the girl.Women and children who are victims of trafficking are usually submissive and not allowed to speak for themselves; and the man traveling with them usually has control of their identification, according to Rivard. Airline staff members who attend the training will learn about the psychological techniques that traffickers use to control their victims. They will also learn what to do if they encounter a trafficking situation. She said they should never personally intervene.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott predicts that hundreds of sex workers will flow into the Dallas area during Super Bowl, and he has assigned two dozen of his staff to assist local police in efforts to minimize prostitution, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Traffick 911 has also planned rallies, distributed literature to residents and offered volunteer services to police in their efforts to curtail the activities of sex workers and possibly rescue some of the victims during the Super Bowl weekend.