How the Meetings Industry Is Confronting Human Trafficking
Forced labor and sexual exploitation is a global problem — and now airlines, hospitality companies and meeting planners are taking serious steps to combat it. Read about it here
Flight attendants are keen observers, trained to pick up on more than just overloaded overhead bins and unbuckled flyers. They also know to watch for the subtle telltale signs of human trafficking as they cruise the aisles of their aircraft at 30,000 feet.
Last June, at its 74th annual general meeting in Sydney, Australia, the International Air Transport Association and its 280 airline members, who are responsible for 83 percent of global air traffic, unanimously agreed on a human-trafficking resolution that included the launch of a global public-awareness and training program called #EyesOpen. Several U.S. carriers have since stepped up their own initiatives in the global fight.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, the first carrier to sign on to ECPAT's Child Protection Code of Conduct, is intensifying its efforts to raise awareness about trafficking. This past January, the carrier launched a new inflight video to guide passengers on how to spot human trafficking. The airline chose to feature the campaign on its inflight entertainment systems to "heighten customers' awareness of a scenario potentially transpiring in the row in front of them."
The video is part of a broader effort by the carrier. Since 2016, when Delta implemented the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Lighting Initiative program on human-trafficking awareness, which requires airlines to provide flight-attendant training on recognizing and responding to potential human-trafficking victims, more than 56,000 Delta employees have taken the online training.
More recently, Delta partnered with Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Polaris, an organization that is working to combat trafficking, to allow its SkyMiles members to donate miles to Polaris through Delta's SkyWish program. As of January 2019, SkyWish has provided 60 flights for survivors.
In September 2018, United Airlines, which previously required only flight attendants to take human-trafficking awareness training, extended that to include all of its 54,000 employees, including pilots, airport-operations workers, customer-contact agents and others. In addition, the Chicago-based carrier teamed up with the DHS to provide co-branded training materials, including inflight signage, videos and passenger-awareness cards, effectively leveraging their combined outreach.