A flight attendant rescued a victim of human trafficking after she spotted the girl looking “dishevelled” on a plane accompanied by a well-dressed man.
Sheila Frederick, 49, was working on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco when she noticed the girl, who looked around 14 or 15 years old, and immediately knew something was wrong, according to 10 News.
“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?” Ms Frederick told the programme.
When she tried to speak with the two passengers, the man reportedly became defensive and the girl wouldn't engage in conversation.
Ms Frederick said she subsequently left a note for the teenager in the plane's toilet, which she later responded to with the message: “I need help.”
The flight attendant informed pilots who were then able to communicate the message to police in San Francisco, and the man was arrested when the flight landed.
It comes amid increased efforts since 2009 to train American flight staff to recognise signs of human trafficking and flag them up. Common signs include someone who appears to be being controlled, is battered or won’t answer questions or make eye contact.
Emphasising the importance of such training, Ms Frederick added: “I've been a flight attendant for 10 years and it's like I am going all the way back to when I was in training and I was like, I could have seen these young girls and young boys and didn't even know.”
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement are reported to have arrested 2,000 human traffickers and identified 400 victims last year.