Airport training targets human trafficking

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

A national effort to boost awareness of human trafficking and prevent it is enlisting airport and airline workers to spot victims.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport hosted a training session on human trafficking for airline and airport workers, one of a series of training sessions and part of a broader campaign at the world's busiest airport.

About 130 airport and airline workers from Hartsfield-Jackson and other airports attended the training session at the airport Wednesday.

A flight attendant sees an average of 2,000 people a month, said Nancy Rivard, president of Airline Ambassadors International, which ran the training session Wednesday. That puts flight attendants in a position to observe passenger behavior on a broad scale.

Hartsfield-Jackson said it has not had any arrests for human trafficking, but still aims to prevent cases.

“Look for a victim that doesn’t appear to have a relationship with the person they’re with,” said Jan Lennon, Hartsfield-Jackson’s director of security. “Someone who is looking away, looking down.”

Some suspicions may be incorrect or based on false assumptions. “Even if you are not sure, call 9-1-1,” Lennon said.

Gail Cofield, a retired Delta flight attendant, went to the training with plans to share what she learns at churches in Fayetteville, where she lives.

“We want to hold conferences and seminars ourselves…. just spread the word, because these kids are getting into a lot of trouble online,” Cofield said.

Flight attendant Donna Hubbard is a certified trainer with Airline Ambassadors International and says she was a victim of human trafficking. “Quite often it’s very subliminal, subtle coercion,” including threats, she said.

“It was sexual exploitation, it was carrying weapons, it was being a drug mule, whatever they wanted me to do,” Hubbard said. “I ended up going to prison to get my life back…. So many of the victims are criminalized with the traffickers.”

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