When a flight attendant noticed a dishevelled young girl sitting beside an older man on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco, she knew something was wrong. “She looked like she had been through pure hell,” flight attendant Shelia Fedrick told NBC. The alert flight attendant rescued the girl from being trafficked.

“Something in the back of my mind said something was not right. He was well-dressed. That’s what got me because I thought why is he well-dressed and she is looking all dishevelled and out of sorts?”

The man didn’t let Fedrick even speak to the girl. Suspecting something was wrong, she left a note for the girl in the toilet, saying that she would help her.

The girl wrote back, “I need help.”

Fedrick then informed the pilots, who contacted the police in San Francisco. The man was arrested as soon as the flight landed.

American airlines have increasingly been trained how to recognise signs of trafficking, and Fedrick’s story came to light at a training workshop conducted by non-profit, Airline Ambassadors, an organisation that helps train flight attendants on how to spot and save victims of human trafficking.

One of the major signs is if the victim seems scared, nervous, unsure of their destination, and if they provide answers that seem scripted. The Airline Ambassadors website also says that the traffickers may answer questions for the victim, observe the victim, and may not know their name or personal information.

Another sign is if the traffickers are always observing the victim, and if the victim appears drugged.

When they suspect a victim is on board, it is best to call the pilot instead of confronting the trafficker or getting overtly involved.

Airline Ambassadors is pushing the US government to make regular flight attendant training a must for all airlines.

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