An Arizona man was accused of trafficking his own daughter as they were flying back home from a Florida trip.
As he got off a Southwest Airlines flight, Brian Smith was confronted by Phoenix police. Smith and wife Renee explained they have three biological children along with Georgianna, a 16-year-old who they adopted from China.
According to Smith, the family was returning back home after visiting the grandparents in Ft. Myers, Florida, when the incident occurred. As soon as they got off the plane they were approached by Phoenix police at Terminal 4 in Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport.
“He said the flight attendant had some concerns about the person you’re with,” said Smith.
The father-daughter were sitting to each other throughout the flight. Georgianna was sleeping most of the time. She only spoke with the flight attendant about drinks and snack orders.
This is when one of the staff members got suspicious and alerted police, apparently, because of her communication disorder.
“She has a communication disorder, so she is more quiet than other children might be in a public space,” said Renee.
“I don’t like to accuse anyone of anything,” she explained. “But…if Georgianna was a Caucasian child, I don’t believe this would have happened.”
The family said they understood the dangers associated with human trafficking, but hoped they wouldn't ever face this situation again.
“We’ve never had an issue but now we’ll always be worried something could happen,” said Renee.
Southwest Airlines emailed an apology to ABC, explaining their flight attendants receive a formal training in recognizing common behavioral indicators of human trafficking.
“We’ve shared a heartfelt apology with this family who flies often with us. Our flight attendants do receive training in recognizing expert-identified, common behavioral indicators of human trafficking. Following conversations with authorities on the ground after the flight, we’re continuing our conversation with the family and with our employees whose valuable vigilance is aimed at aiding law enforcement in successfully stopping a growing number of trafficking situations. A quick look at both our workforce and the hundreds of thousands of customers we carry every day highlights a celebration of diversity that’s at the heart of Southwest’s every success.”
Thumbnail/Banner: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson