April 30, 2021

Aviation: A Transportation Method for Human Trafficking

Claudia Culmone

Human trafficking is a modern term applied to an age-old system that exploits people of all ages and backgrounds for profit or personal gratification.

The trafficking of humans can be traced back thousands of years to civilizations that include the Romans, Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs and Chinese. During these periods, transportation of victims was primarily achieved by marching them over land on foot. In the 17th century, traffickers used ships, transforming the institution into a global business. The dawn of aviation provided a new transportation option for traffickers – one that is still heavily used today.

Challenges for Aviation

Uniting Aviation, a news site run by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), estimates that each year, the number of trafficking victims moved by air ranges from 600,000 to 800,000. Part of the challenge within aviation is that many global air carriers and air operators are uncertain of how to combat the problem within their organization. Additionally, employees are often reluctant to get involved or may not know how to recognize, or handle, a situation involving human trafficking.

Congressional Action

In 2018, the U.S. Congress passed H.R.302 – The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Within this piece of legislation is a small paragraph that states:

In addition to other training requirements, each air carrier shall provide training to ticket counter agents, gate agents and other air carrier workers whose jobs require regular interactions with passengers on recognizing and responding to potential human trafficking victims.”

This section of the FAA Reauthorization Act expands upon the requirement to provide training on human trafficking to flight attendants, established two years prior in H.R.636 - the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016.

Business aviation joins the fight

Recognizing that human trafficking is not limited to the commercial sector of aviation, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and NATA Compliance Services (NATACS) formed a partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2020. Through this partnership, NATACS provides free Blue Lightning Initiative (BLI) training to all business aviation operators and their employees.

This training provides:

  • Definition of what human trafficking is
  • The indicators of activity associated with human trafficking
  • How to report suspected human trafficking activity

The DOT reports BLI training has been completed by over 100,000 aviation personnel to date. More than 4,000 crewmembers have been trained with the BLI training provided through NATACS, but there are still thousands of business aviation employees yet to be educated.

Want more information on how to access this free training? Contact us.

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