Perspective

Network planning. Revenue management. Pricing. Flight operations. Crew management. These and many more areas are essential for a successful, profitable and reliable airline. They are areas we focus intently on, and we strive to improve these areas as passenger demands, market conditions and the overall aviation environment changes and evolves.

However, today, I don’t want to focus on any of these areas. Instead, I want to talk about a subject that is extremely emotional ... human trafficking. At first glance, it appears to have nothing to do with running a successful airline. Though, inadvertently, airlines, airports, hotels and a number of other businesses within the travel and tourism industries unwittingly and unwillingly play a significant role in supporting this barbaric criminal industry. Human traffickers use our businesses to transport thousands of victims every year.

While most of us are well aware that human trafficking exists, often times, we tend to overlook it because it doesn’t affect our daily lives. That leaves all of us, as fellow humans, vulnerable to this heinous criminal activity. Why? Because if we don’t recognize it, acknowledge it, address it and, most importantly, stop it, this corrupt industry will continue to grow, leaving many more victims in its wake. It’s a worldwide business. It’s in our backyards. So without question, our friends and loved ones could very easily become victims.

Because the airline industry is an avenue for human traffickers, we’re in a unique position to hinder their business. Generally, there are clear signs when a crime of this nature is being committed. Therefore, if the right people are trained to identify the signs and report the crime to the proper authorities, there will be fewer and fewer human traffickers, and those still in operation will soon learn that they cannot conduct “business” using our airline industry.

While airlines rely on airport security personnel to keep terrorists off their planes, many human traffickers slip through undetected because security agents are typically trained to look for a different type of criminal. Until that changes, and even when it does, that puts the onus on airlines, their employees and the traveling public to recognize criminals and their victims and report it accordingly.

But it goes well beyond airlines and airports. This is such a critical, global topic that organizations and governments around the world have made it a priority. For example, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech earlier this year about the crime of human trafficking — modern-day slavery — saying, “ ... nations must speak with one voice: Our people and our children are not for sale.

In June, Blue Lightning, a new federal partnership comprising Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Homeland Security and Transportation, was launched. It is a voluntary training program to educate commercial airline flight crews and other airline staff about human trafficking, how to recognize it and how to report it.

Since 2009, Airline Ambassadors International has dedicated resources to training airline and airport personnel, police and security officers, the general public and many other entities. The organization recently conducted its Recognize It and Report It training in the Ukraine, becoming the first anti-trafficking training of its kind in Europe.

Because we, at Sabre Holdings®, are so passionate about the fight against human trafficking, this past year, we launched an initiative, Passport to Freedom, that helps educate and build awareness. We are committed to train all 10,000 of our employees so they, too, can recognize when a crime is being perpetrated and report it, as well as inform and educate others to do the same. There are a lot of criminals driving the human trafficking industry, so it will take a lot of us fighting together to stop them.

We have dedicated our special section of Ascend to this topic. We talk about the human trafficking industry as a whole and the training available to employees and customers of airlines and other companies in the travel and tourism industries. In addition, we share the true story of how the right training saved a little girl’s life and led to the apprehension of her captor.

It’s a problem in our industry, and I hope you’ll join us in the crusade against human trafficking. If enough of us do our part, we can stop this US$32 billion-a-year industry.

I hope you find this issue of Ascend informative and thought provoking. Let’s partner together to help end human slavery and sexual exploitation.

Hugh

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