Airline Employees in Training Before Super Bowl to Spot Potential Victims of Human Trafficking

Before kickoff of the Super Bowl in Atlanta, some airline employees and advocates will be in training to spot the signs of human trafficking.

"It's the Atlanta airport that's hosting it," explained Tammy Meade, DFW Regional Director of Airline Ambassadors International. "The market is there; a lot of people in one area with people who have the money to pay for these trafficked children, these trafficked women, these trafficked boys and girls."

For the last 10 years in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Airline Ambassadors has trained airline employees on what to look for to spot potential human trafficking victims.

"If they have another individual carrying their documents for them. If another individual is answering for the passenger, that could also be a sign that they're being trafficked," Meade said. "It can be anyone. It can be the girl next door."

"I don't think I've ever met so many people being trafficked," said Leah Hiatt, who said she was trafficked after losing her bus ticket on the way to Houston. "I had no idea where I was. I knew I was in Dallas, but I didn't realize what Dallas was about. I'm from a small town in Indiana."

Hiatt got help from a flight attendant who took the Airline Ambassadors training, and noticed her in distress at a DFW gas station.

"The guy she had been with just kind of drove off," explained Teresa Garza, an American Airlines flight attendant who was driving home just before Christmas in 2017 when she noticed Hiatt. "I knew who to call and we were able to bring her in and call her father and tell him that we found his little girl and that part always gets me a little choked up because he was on the other side saying 'you're my Christmas miracle'."

Hiatt is recovering at Restored Hope Ministries, a safe house for human trafficking victims. 

"They gave me hope and a future," said Hiatt. "It really saved by life."

Garza said while her training was focused on spotting signs of trouble during the Super Bowl, it applies year-round. 

"When you see the signs and it's right in front of you, don't ignore it," Garza said. 

For more information on how to spot the signs of human trafficking, click here. You can get help or report a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hot-line at 1-888-373-7888 or send a text to BeFree (233733).

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