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Airlines boost human trafficking awareness training ahead of Super Bowl

Posted at 11:20 AM, Feb 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-02 12:20:21-05

It's Super Bowl Sunday and as fans got revved up for the festivities, members of the travel sector prepped for the weekend in a different way.

Miami airports began preparing for an influx of visitors coming to watch the big game at the Hard Rock Stadium days before, with airlines boosting their training programs to teach their staff the common clues of human trafficking.

Last year, the FBI announced they arrested 169 people involved in sex trafficking in the days leading up to and during the last Super Bowl in Atlanta.

While some anti-human trafficking groups, such as the Polaris Project, say the statistics don't show a significant increase in incidents during this time of the year -- officials say any big event that brings a large crowd could increase the chances of an event happening.

Flight attendants, pilots, gate agents and personnel from the Transportation Security Administration, were well-equipped ahead of the big game between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs to keep their eyes peeled for anything suspicious.

Miami International Airport said they expect more than 90,000 passengers to depart from the airport on Monday, Feb. 3rd, according to officials.

While many airlines already train their flight attendants on the tell-tale signs of sex trafficking, some -- Delta Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines -- have introduced mandatory training for their personnel on how to help the victims.

Some airlines are also hosting seminars to raise awareness.

American Airlines estimates that 70,000 of their customer-facing employees received human trafficking awareness training ahead of the Super Bowl. Last week, AA also hosted awareness seminars in Miami and at their headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.

The officials said they wanted to make sure their employees knew what to look for and how to respond to suspected cases of human trafficking.

Delta too has also done a lot to bring awareness to the problem, both ahead of the Super Bowl and year-round.

The company estimates that 86,000 of their employees have already taken in-depth, custom-made trainings, according to a statement.

Delta provides situational awareness trainings so that employees would know how to approach situations of sex trafficking in a way that best protects the victims, the statement said.

In the Miami airport this weekend, Delta put up signs with information telling employees and travelers what to look for in potential victims. The phone number for the National Human Trafficking Prevention Hotline is also on the posters.

A Delta spokesperson said that with millions of people in the Miami airport over the next few days, it's the perfect platform to bring broader awareness to the ongoing problem.

Ashley Moody, Florida’s attorney general, called on many involved in both the travel and hospitality sectors to be vigilant for signs of human trafficking in a press conference last week.

"Sadly, when thousands of people come together to celebrate major events, criminals look to exploit the market through downright malicious acts of evil," Moody said in a press release. "We are making preparations now to help stop these crimes, protect visitors and hold accountable anyone who would exploit this event to profit off the misery of another human being."

Moody also attended a training for Uber drivers that gave them more information about human trafficking. She said the training was one of three provided to Uber drivers in the tri-county Miami area leading up to the big game.

"Drivers are the eyes and ears on the road and, through partnerships, we hope to provide them with the necessary resources developed by experts that will help empower them to take action," Uber’s Chief Legal Officer Tony West said in a press release.

Even though Super Bowl weekend draws a lot of attention to the human trafficking issue, some advocates noted that the problem doesn't just occur during sporting events -- but a year-round issue that has to be addressed as such.

"In reality, what we're seeing in the statistics and in the reports received through the National Human Trafficking hotline is that trafficking happens all the time, not just around large sporting events" said Megan Cutter, the associate director of national hotlines.

While Cutter said advocates in the anti-human trafficking field are grateful for the support, their efforts need to go deeper in order to give community members all the tools they need to prevent someone from becoming a victim.