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Passenger Says American Airlines Mistakenly Accused Him of Sex Trafficking

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]

Comments are Closed.
Makanmata February 2, 2016

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.

Thom Anderson January 16, 2016

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.

majstoll January 14, 2016

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).

MimiB22 January 14, 2016

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.

canddmeyer January 14, 2016

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