An American Airlines ticketing agent made headlines this week when her gut instinct and quick thinking kept two underaged girls from entering into an unsafe and potentially child trafficking situation.
Denice Miracle was approached by two girls, one 17 and one 15, at the Sacramento Airport. They had bags but no IDs, and a quick check showed Miracle that their tickets were purchased with a fraudulent credit card. Miracle told ECPAT-USA that her initial thought was that the girls were running away from home, but something about the circumstances just seemed off. She said her maternal instinct kicked in and she told her supervisor she felt like she should contact the local sheriff’s department.
When authorities arrived, the teens said they met a man called “Drey” on Instagram, and he paid for their tickets to New York and promised to pay them $2000 to model in some music videos. What he hadn’t told the girls was that the tickets he purchased them were all one-way.
When the sheriff tried to contact “Drey,” his social media profiles quickly disappeared. They believe that if they boarded the flight, the two girls would have almost certainly become victims of sex trafficking.
Victims of trafficking can be transported via air travel to different cities and countries, and while the common perception is often that human trafficking is largely an international issue, cases of suspected trafficking have been reported in all 50 states. As such, airline and airport employees are in a unique position to identify and prevent instances of sexual exploitation. As a corporate partner of ECPAT-USA and member of The Code, American Airlines recognizes the key role that their employees play in protecting children around the world.
For many, this is the sort of situation that you would expect to encounter at a larger international airport, not a smaller one like Sacramento. Miracle, who has worked at American Airlines for 27 years, never thought that this would be the kind of circumstance she would experience at her job.
Miracle acknowledged that it’s hard to know when to step in. “I don’t look at every child as someone who is going to be trafficked,” Miracle said. “It’s a fine line—a little bit—of how involved you get.”
Miracle said that fraudulent credit card use isn’t uncommon in a busy airport setting, but typically gate agents just move on. She notes that this experience, however, will make her look deeper in the future.
“[This is] an awakening that there might be something else going on,” Miracle said. “Just take that extra second.”
Click here to learn more about how your company can become involved in the fight to end trafficking.