Superbowl Superheroes: Airline Industry Fights Trafficking

The Superbowl sits on its throne as the premier American ritual—reveling in athleticism, ambition, and teamwork. Yet over the years, a darker side has quietly bubbled up beneath public notice.

According to a recent Time article([1]), authorities obtained 24 children at last year’s Superbowl in Miami—many of whom were runaways and trafficked there specifically for the event. Additionally 100 prostitutes from outside the Miami-Dade county region were documented.

However, several groups have taken initiative to combat the sex trafficking trend at last year’s Superbowl. Among the many groups was Airline Ambassadors, a humanitarian aid non-profit organization founded in 1996 by Nancy Rivard.

Rivard is an American Airlines flight attendant. She noticed there was extra room in the overhead storage compartments, and envisioned the excess space going to good use: delivering medicine and other aid to global communities in need.

Airline Ambassadors has since expanded their mission, constructing two safehouses in Haiti and two more in progress Additionally, they’ve been called upon in two congressional hearings on human trafficking and the airline industry.

For the most recent Superbowl, Airline Ambassadors brought 10 experts to the Dallas-Fort Worth area— providing the very first training workshop on human trafficking and slavery. It was open to all members of the aviation industry who were interested in attending.

Over 60 employees of airlines like American, Quantas, United, several TSA officers, and members of the hotel industry attended the workshop. Responses from the attendees were uniformly positive, and several commented that they felt more confident about recognizing the signs of trafficking, as well as the proper reporting methods. Collaboration allowed airline professionals to brainstorm new ways for travel industry insiders to assist in the fight to end trafficking.

And a sign of the weekend’s success? Two young girls were rescued by the police thanks to the efforts of Airline Ambassadors.


  1. The recruitment of airline personnel to aid in spotting and reporting sex trafficking is a great idea. I am sure that there are numerous good hearted employees of airlines who would welcome the opportunity to resist this evil. They can make a difference. The profitability of sex trafficking is so high that the price of air travel is no barrier to pimps flying victims halfway across the world. The transport of sex slaves by pimps on international flights is more common than people realize.

    In his book, Three Cups of Tea, author Greg Mortenson made this observation of sex trafficking taking place right in front of him on an air flight.

    “On the bumpy Biman Airways flight from Daca to Calcutta, Mortenson had his notion of the desperate need to educate rural girls confirmed. The lone foreigner on the flight, he was shepherded by stewardesses to first class, where he sat among fifteen attractive Bangladeshi girls in bright new saris. ‘They were young and terrified,’ Mortenson says. ‘They didn’t know how to use their seatbelts or silverware and when we got to the airport, I watched helplessly as corrupt officials whisked them off the plane and around the customs guards. I couldn’t do anything for them. I could only imagine the kind of horrible life of prostitution they were heading to.’”

    - p. 234.

    I find the above paragraph rather chilling.


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