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American Airlines

Passenger Says American Airlines Mistakenly Accused Him of Sex Trafficking

Passenger Says American Airlines Mistakenly Accused Him of Sex Trafficking
Jennifer Billock

A couple from New York City was recently escorted off a flight under suspicion of sex trafficking.

When Kathleen Chan and Jay Serrano boarded a flight from Miami to New York City, they didn’t expect to be escorted off the plane by police once it landed. Twenty minutes after touching ground, three armed Port Authority officers boarded the plane and requested Chan come with them.

“I asked him, ‘Can you tell me what this is about?’” Chan told Pix11. “He told me the flight crew had alerted the police that it was a possible case of sex trafficking. They thought I had not spoken any English, and that I was taking directions from Jay during the flight.”

Serrano was eventually brought outside with Chan, eliciting stares from other travelers.

“To hear someone think I’m selling her, or she’s a hooker, that pissed me off,” Serrano told Pix11.

What were the reasons the couple was singled out? When Serrano went to the bathroom (because he was sick, but the crew didn’t know that), Chan walked with him there and waited for him outside the lavatory. And at one point in the flight, Serrano asked for half a cup of orange juice. He got a full cup instead and gave some to Chan, who asked for a stirrer.

Michelle Guelbart, who works with the travel industry for the anti-trafficking organization ECPAT USA, noted to PIX 11, “You mentioned that when he went to the bathroom, she followed him. One of the indicators for sex trafficking is someone who’s not allowed to move freely through the cabin.”

This is not an isolated incident — in early December, some members of K-Pop band Oh My Girl were detained at LAX due to underage sex worker suspicions — but American Airlines is simply doing their part to try to stop trouble in its tracks.

“At American, the safety and security of our customers and employees is our top priority,” Ross Feinstein, the senior manager for corporate communications with American Airlines, said in a statement reported by Pix11. “Out of an abundance of caution, our employees are trained to report any activity that is out of the ordinary.”

[Photo: AOL/Facebook]

View Comments (14)


  1. JVPhoto


    January 8, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    “…our employees are trained to report any activity that is out of the ordinary.”

    A SO follows their sick SO to the bathroom? They must be reporting these sex trafficking cases 3-4x a day!

  2. mikeef

    January 8, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    “Out of an abundance of caution…”

    Guess Mr. Feinstein learned that phrase at his last job, spokeshole at the TSA.

  3. Boggie Dog

    January 9, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    “At American, the safety and security of our customers and employees is our top priority,” Ross Feinstein, the senior manager for corporate communications with American Airlines, said in a statement reported by Pix11. “

    No Ross, the job of American is to transport paying passengers from one place to another. It is not the American Airlines job to determine what people do when they are not on your airplanes.

    Not surprised of this response seeing as how Feinstein is a former employee of TSA.
    Bet you can’t get that smell off your skin ever.

  4. UncleDude

    January 9, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    If only AA concentrated on training and ensuring their FA how to make time for a PDB [ Guess they have more important thing to do]

  5. drvannostren

    January 11, 2016 at 3:13 am

    They’re doing their job, I get that. I’d rather have them be safe than sorry. But it sounds like they didn’t ask her? They thought she spoke no English, but they didn’t try and ask her. The ONE indicator was that she followed him to the bathroom? That’s a bit scant.

  6. corbetti

    January 11, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    The issue, in my armchair opinion, is that the flight attendants did not want to risk any confrontation (what if she WERE being trafficked and they asked her in front of her trafficker if she spoke english..?) so they simply punted and took the easier for them – but more inconvenient and embarrassing for a customer who wasn’t guilty – mode, which was to call the cops.

  7. copperfield27

    January 12, 2016 at 6:02 am

    Embarrassing yes, but embarrassment doesn’t kill – sex-trafficking – slavery – is a life of torture and often early death through forced drug abuse. I’d much rather be embarrassed than know that staff had looked the other way when they could have saved a life.

  8. o mikros

    January 12, 2016 at 6:49 am

    With all due respect to the other comments here, think about this for a second. What if it *had* been a case of sex trafficking? You think they can just ask the girl point blank? And then, supposing they had confirmed suspicions, what do they do then?

    It’s an embarrassing mix-up, for the couple, for the crew, for the law enforcement involved. But the living hell that sexual victims have to endure is so awful that I think we can afford to put up with a little embarrassment. All of you griping about how their only job is to get paying customers from one place to another are forgetting that all of us in society have a responsibility to each other and if we think something is rotten, we can report it to the proper authorities and let them deal with it, just as happened here.

    Would you ignore the sounds of beating and cries from your drunk neighbor’s house every night when he gets home to his family? I don’t think so. The signs here were far more subtle, but enough that suspicion was reasonably aroused. And I, for one, think they did the right thing. Let’s not discourage people from reporting their concerns in the future by crucifying these flight attendants for their good intentions.

  9. BJM

    January 13, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    Check out . According to the website “The United States is one of the largest destination countries in the world.” 18,000 into the US annually and 300,000 trafficked through the US annually. On average 100 per day. So to all of you who say the FA was wrong and should mind her own business. . . You are responsible for each and every victim.

  10. canddmeyer

    January 14, 2016 at 7:18 am

    No surprise here. Persons of color but white repeatedly have issues with AA.

  11. MimiB22

    January 14, 2016 at 10:13 am

    The article doesn’t really say how this was resolved. Were the passengers questioned discreetly and then allowed to go on their way or were they questioned in front of all the other de-planing passengers? Did they miss any flights or were they otherwise inconvenienced? Did the FC make any effort to talk to the young woman on the flight, simply to ascertain whether she spoke English? Did they ask her if she needed any assistance when she was standing outside the bathroom, at which time she could have mentioned that her partner was sick. Nope.. apparently the crew did none of this. FC should not be put in a position of judging people or making assumptions without doing a bit of due diligence first. They are not trained to do this unless you call a briefing adequate, which I don’t.

  12. majstoll

    January 14, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    If the police come on board an aircraft and “ask” for people to follow them, there is no duty to comply – in fact, to preserve your rights to subsequently sue the police and possibly 3d parties giving information to the police, it might often be best to decline to cooperate with the police at all; if the police want to seize you, they will do so – but such seizure is actionable under the 4th Amendment via 42 USC 1983 if the police do not have at least reasonable suspicion of crime afoot, and even then, such seizures must be short, e.g., under 30 minutes, and you may remain silent during such seizure. 42 USC 1983 actions provide the potential to obtain damages, injunctive relief, and even attorneys’ fees (if the Plaintiff substantially prevails).

  13. Thom Anderson

    January 16, 2016 at 7:30 am

    The concept of innocent until proved guilty recognizes that when one assumes that the opposite assumption can be rationalized to be the greater good one is on a slippery slope of ever increasing despotism. Those who have opined that sex trafficking is so horrible that it justifies the risk of embarrassment and inconvenience fail to see the big picture. I am also curious whether their opinion would be the same were they the ones targeted. Majstoll is 100% correct as far as the U.S. is concerned but does little to defend rights outside of the federation.

    That said, it is not inappropriate to share more overt suspicions with the proper authorities. Of course, one would have to question whether any proper authority has ever been constituted on this globe being as such authority would have to have been created by consent by any and all over whom such authority would be placed. But that is another story.

  14. Makanmata

    February 1, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    Tar and feathers. Everybody wants to be a cop. Stewardesses should stick to being stewardesses, and leave law enforcement to the law enforcers — the USA already has plenty.

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