How flight attendants fight against human trafficking

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31 2012 11:03 p.m. MDT

Henry Biernacki, a San Francisco-based airline captain with Virgin America, says that during his eight years as a pilot he has never been given any specific training about how to respond to human trafficking. "Airlines have 25 training manuals for pilots," he said. "They average 700 pages each, but I've never seen or heard anything about human trafficking."

But not being trained about human trafficking doesn't mean he hasn't had to deal with it. For several years he worked at a foreign airline in Asia where he ran into human trafficking on a regular basis.

At least four different times he attempted to alert operations personnel about passengers the air crew suspected were victims of human trafficking. In every case the airline told him there was no problem. "I know for a fact they weren't looking into the records of those passengers," Biernacki said.

"When I am in command of the plane, I am responsible for everything that goes on in it and all the people on it," Biernacki said. But he said not all pilots feel this way. He said he knows pilots who won't listen to reports from their crews about suspected cases of human trafficking because they don't consider it a flight security issue. A lot of airlines feel like it is just their job to get passengers from place to place — not look out for them, he said.

This is why Rivard won't stop until she sees airlines adopt training programs for all employees.


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