Flight attendant reveals quick-thinking move that potentially saved young girl from suspected human trafficker

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By Asiya Ali

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A flight attendant rescued a victim from a suspected human trafficker with one quick-thinking move.


In 2011, Sheila Federick had been working on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco when she noticed an underage girl in worn, wrinkled clothes with a bruise on her leg next to a well-dressed older man.

According to 10 News, the stark difference in appearance between the young girl and the man rang alarm bells in the employee's head, which prompted her to think of a way to save the victim.

“Something in the back of my mind said something was not right. He was well-dressed," she told the outlet. "That’s what got me because I thought why is he well-dressed and she is looking all disheveled and out of sorts?”

Screenshot 2024-06-20 at 16.17.18.jpgSheila Federick revealed how she was able to get the girl away for a moment. Credit: NBC News

When Fedrick tried to speak with the two passengers, the man reportedly became defensive and the girl wouldn't engage in conversation.

So, the flight attendant of 10 years devised a clever plan to get the girl away from the man. Locking one of the lavatories, she quietly gestured to the girl while another flight attendant distracted the man.

"I left a note in one of the bathrooms," Fedrick told NBC News. After the man and girl approached the lavatory, Fedrick unlocked the door and told her that she could use the one that was "just for the crew".

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, the quick-thinking flight attendant said she stood with the man until the girl was finished in the bathroom - hoping she had seen her note and replied.

"She wrote back on the note and said 'I need help,'" she told NBC News.

After reading the child's reply, Fedrick informed pilots who were then able to communicate the message to police in San Francisco. The man was arrested when the flight landed.

The girl went on to attend college, and continued to stay in touch with Fedrick, 10News reports.

GettyImages-953638458.jpgThe suspected human trafficking took place on an Alaska Airlines flight. Credit: Robert Alexander / Getty

Airports are usually used as hubs for human trafficking, which is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world.

According to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement page, "Many of these victims are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs; instead, they are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor or other types of forced labor."

While Fedrick had no official training on how to spot and help victims, she instinctively knew something was wrong. She has since become an Airline Ambassador member and said it is now much easier to report incidents.

The flight attendant revealed that the girl she saved called her a few months after the rescue to "say thank you and that she was back with her family, in therapy," per Buzzfeed. She added that the victim was held for two months before that flight.

"I tell people to be aware of their surroundings. There are so many warning signs," Fedrick said. "Look closely."

GettyImages-1203171060.jpgCredit: Izusek / Getty

Organizations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) have both shared information on how flight crew and others can spot signs of human trafficking.

One of the major signs is if the victim looks "fearful, disoriented or confused," if they are showing signs of "mental or physical abuse," and avoiding "eye contact".

Other signs are if they are being denied "food, water, sleep, or medical care," are accompanied by someone claiming to be their guardian, and if they are not allowed to speak for themselves, or be in control of their documents.

Furthermore, it is easier to spot victims if they have no freedom of movement, or are not wearing appropriate clothing for their destination.

IATA urges employees to contact fellow flight staff if they suspect a case of human trafficking, and inform "the pilot in command so they can determine next steps".

If this is taking place at an airport, then it's best to call the police or appropriate law enforcement about what you have witnessed.

Featured image credit: Craig Hastings / Getty

Flight attendant reveals quick-thinking move that potentially saved young girl from suspected human trafficker

vt-author-image

By Asiya Ali

Article saved!Article saved!

A flight attendant rescued a victim from a suspected human trafficker with one quick-thinking move.


In 2011, Sheila Federick had been working on an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to San Francisco when she noticed an underage girl in worn, wrinkled clothes with a bruise on her leg next to a well-dressed older man.

According to 10 News, the stark difference in appearance between the young girl and the man rang alarm bells in the employee's head, which prompted her to think of a way to save the victim.

“Something in the back of my mind said something was not right. He was well-dressed," she told the outlet. "That’s what got me because I thought why is he well-dressed and she is looking all disheveled and out of sorts?”

Screenshot 2024-06-20 at 16.17.18.jpgSheila Federick revealed how she was able to get the girl away for a moment. Credit: NBC News

When Fedrick tried to speak with the two passengers, the man reportedly became defensive and the girl wouldn't engage in conversation.

So, the flight attendant of 10 years devised a clever plan to get the girl away from the man. Locking one of the lavatories, she quietly gestured to the girl while another flight attendant distracted the man.

"I left a note in one of the bathrooms," Fedrick told NBC News. After the man and girl approached the lavatory, Fedrick unlocked the door and told her that she could use the one that was "just for the crew".

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, the quick-thinking flight attendant said she stood with the man until the girl was finished in the bathroom - hoping she had seen her note and replied.

"She wrote back on the note and said 'I need help,'" she told NBC News.

After reading the child's reply, Fedrick informed pilots who were then able to communicate the message to police in San Francisco. The man was arrested when the flight landed.

The girl went on to attend college, and continued to stay in touch with Fedrick, 10News reports.

GettyImages-953638458.jpgThe suspected human trafficking took place on an Alaska Airlines flight. Credit: Robert Alexander / Getty

Airports are usually used as hubs for human trafficking, which is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world.

According to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement page, "Many of these victims are lured from their homes with false promises of well-paying jobs; instead, they are forced or coerced into prostitution, domestic servitude, farm or factory labor or other types of forced labor."

While Fedrick had no official training on how to spot and help victims, she instinctively knew something was wrong. She has since become an Airline Ambassador member and said it is now much easier to report incidents.

The flight attendant revealed that the girl she saved called her a few months after the rescue to "say thank you and that she was back with her family, in therapy," per Buzzfeed. She added that the victim was held for two months before that flight.

"I tell people to be aware of their surroundings. There are so many warning signs," Fedrick said. "Look closely."

GettyImages-1203171060.jpgCredit: Izusek / Getty

Organizations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) have both shared information on how flight crew and others can spot signs of human trafficking.

One of the major signs is if the victim looks "fearful, disoriented or confused," if they are showing signs of "mental or physical abuse," and avoiding "eye contact".

Other signs are if they are being denied "food, water, sleep, or medical care," are accompanied by someone claiming to be their guardian, and if they are not allowed to speak for themselves, or be in control of their documents.

Furthermore, it is easier to spot victims if they have no freedom of movement, or are not wearing appropriate clothing for their destination.

IATA urges employees to contact fellow flight staff if they suspect a case of human trafficking, and inform "the pilot in command so they can determine next steps".

If this is taking place at an airport, then it's best to call the police or appropriate law enforcement about what you have witnessed.

Featured image credit: Craig Hastings / Getty