Airline's training program helps staff detect suspicious behavior

The efforts JetBlue has been taking to combat human trafficking have been discussed at the IATA AGM in Cancun.

Four years ago, the airline began a program that saw flight attendants, airport crew members, pilots, and flights crews retrained in detecting behavior which could be linked to human trafficking.

We’d rather staff err on the side of protecting someone, than on the side of letting it go

Robert Land, JetBlue’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, said instilling a culture where staff are encouraged to report suspicious activity—without the fear of unduly inconveniencing customers—has been key to the success of the program, which has led to more than 30 cases of human trafficking being investigated since 2013.

“In general, staff are trained to report anything that doesn’t look right,” Land said.

“One of the key things we do is, if staff see something suspicious, they do not interact directly with the customer. They call an internal number, our security team then calls local or federal authorities, and they deal with it.

"There’s no guilt of ‘I innocently bothered a customer who didn’t have any business being bothered.’

“We’d rather our crew members err on the side of protecting someone, than on the side of letting it go.”

The scale of human trafficking worldwide, meanwhile, was highlighted by Felipe De La Torre, Program Management Officer at the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

“Figures show that there were 60,000 victims between 2012 and 2014, but human trafficking is a very clandestine crime,” he said. “This is a low number compared with the real number that may exist."

Land believes the number of cases JetBlue staff have flagged up—and that have been escalated by the authorities—is proof of the success of their program.

“If we weren’t participating, more than 30 cases that have been called in would not have been,” he said.