A few weeks ago I wrote about how a Delta passenger was accused of trafficking his special needs daughter. Well, now a Frontier passenger has been accused of trafficking her sister.
Frontier Airlines trafficking incident
Last Tuesday (July 20, 2021) a woman was traveling with her sister on Frontier Airlines from Denver to Dallas. 21-year-old Lakeyjanay Bailey (who is Black) was traveling with her four-year-old adoptive sister, Olivia (who is white).
The flight seemed totally normal to the sisters until they landed at DFW, where they were met by law enforcement. According to the incident report, Frontier Airlines allegedly requested that police investigate a passenger over concerns of human trafficking, as a female born in 2001 was traveling with a female born in 2017. There’s no indication that they exhibited any sort of odd behavior.
After being confronted, officers asked the younger sister if she knew what relation the 21-year-old had to her, along with a series of other questions. Officers then spoke with the mother of both girls, as well as a social worker, to confirm certain pieces of information. The police followed the sisters to baggage claim, before speaking to the person who picked them up.
Bailey believes that this was race related, and that if a white adult were traveling with a Black child, things would have been different. She’s now considering suing Frontier Airlines.
What Frontier Airlines has to say
Frontier Airlines has provided the following statement regarding the incident:
A concern was raised during the flight by another passenger who was sitting near the woman and child and suspected human trafficking. That passenger approached the flight crew with those concerns and subsequently completed a written report during the flight to document her observations. The captain was notified and felt an obligation to report the matter. Air travel is one of the most common means for human trafficking. Race played no part in the actions of the flight crew who were following established protocols
My take on this incident
This really sucks. I think it’s extremely obvious that race was the reason that this incident occurred — if a white 21-year-old were traveling with a young white child, no one would bat an eyelid.
What makes this incident slightly different than the Delta incident with a father and daughter is that in this case it wasn’t the crew that initially raised trafficking concerns, but rather another passenger. Airline crews are in theory trained to spot signs of human trafficking, though not well — in reality they just take a short course on it, at best.
Should the airline be given any more grace if it was another passenger reporting the incident, rather than a crew member? Should the crew have confronted the sisters and talked to them, rather than just calling the police? If the crew dismissed the incident and didn’t report, and it turned out that there was child trafficking going on, would the carrier then have some liability?
Look, I get the issue — human trafficking is a problem. However, the problem is that people often accuse others of this based on them appearing “different.” Rarely are white families where no one has special needs accused of trafficking. Rather more diverse families usually get accused of this. Some people don’t seem to realize that “different” isn’t the same thing as “suspicious.”
There will no doubt be those who say “well, better safe than sorry.” I think that’s really easy for us white people to say, who aren’t naturally viewed as being “suspicious.” For example, when a dark-skinned person gets removed from a plane for being “suspicious” due to speaking Arabic, does that also fall under the category of “better safe than sorry?” I’d say no…
A 21-year-old Black woman was traveling with her adoptive four-year-old sister on Frontier Airlines, and was accused of trafficking. Apparently a passenger brought this to the attention of the crew, and then the crew decided to have police meet the flight.
What a humiliating experience for both siblings. Sadly it’s not the first such story either…
What do you make of this incident?
(Tip of the hat to Your Mileage May Vary)