Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants praised after mistakenly thinking Asian man traveling with 3 Caucasian women was a trafficker
Three flight attendants felt something wrong about an Asian man travelling with three Caucasian females and decided to take action
Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants are being credited for their presence of mind in alerting authorities about the apparent trafficking of three girls who were traveling with them. As reported in the airline's blog, flight attendant Wesley Hirata decided to go with his gut when he felt something was wrong after spotting an older Asian man boarding a recent Los Angeles to Honolulu flight with three Caucasian girls.
The man claimed that they were flying as a family, but Hirata felt something was off when he realized that all of them were hardly conversing with each other. This prompted Wesley to interact with them every now and then and engage in questions that would help him know more about the apparent 'family'.
When he was unable to get to the bottom of the situation, he decided to take help from his fellow flight attendants, Crimson Foster and Kira Sunderland. “Because of Wes’ strong instinct about the situation, I decided to go up to the girls and ask a few questions,” Crimson said, as she agreed with what Wesley had observed and added that the girls were nice but shy. The three later examined the man’s required agriculture form prior to landing in Honolulu.
“After seeing one of the girls he was traveling with was underage, I felt compelled to check on the passenger manifest,” explained Wesley. “As a brother of two sisters – including one 10 years my junior – I couldn’t just ignore the situation under good conscience.” Kira and Wesley further investigated the girls and the man.
"Wes and I then looked at the manifest and saw something very unusual,” said Kira. “All three girls were listed with the same name. It was definitely a strange situation which I have never experienced in my 15-plus years of flying."
It was also the first such experience for Kira, a veteran of 34 years. However, the three of them were quick to take action.
"While we are all very aware of not wanting to inconvenience any passenger, it is obviously more important to guard the safety and security of our flight and the passengers in our care,” Kira shared.
Honolulu sheriffs questioned the passengers upon arrival and the case was then transferred to FBI as suspected human trafficking. While the case was dismissed, the law enforcement praised the crew for their actions. "We do appreciate Hawaiian Airlines employees for speaking out and saying something and bringing it to our attention," said Jason K. White, spokesman for the Honolulu FBI field office.
"We encourage people to remember that if something seems strange or doesn't feel right most times something is wrong, however, that was not the case in this incident."
“The astute awareness of the flight attendants – noticing some key anomalies that heightened their attention to that situation – led them to quickly alert the captain who made the appropriate notification to our Systems Operations Control Center and airport security,” said Thomas Aiu, Hawaiian’s director of corporate security. Kira further added that the three of them just responded to the situation that was in front of them.
“All of us are aware that Hawaiian is famous for hospitality, and deservedly so,” she said. “But we always say, ‘if you see something, say something,’ and that's exactly what happened here… I am grateful for our training, and for the quick responses of all involved – in flight and on the ground – during very busy phases of our flight.” At the same time, Wesley also had advice for anyone who found themselves in a similar situation.
“Always be observant of passengers as they board… Also, be sure to discuss any strange situations with other crew members and enlist the help of those willing to get involved. Trust your gut and prior experience. Report the situation without alarming or confronting the passengers in a suspicious manner," he said.