Journal of Air Law and Commerce


Over the past two decades, multilateral organizations and the U.S. government have fought tirelessly to eradicate human trafficking. Drafting and passing protocols, resolutions, and statutes, these entities attempted to gain the upper hand by collecting and sharing data, bolstering victim services, and training agency officials, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges on the hallmarks of trafficking circumstances. While these efforts delivered results and are cause for celebration, data shows that human trafficking remains deeply established and operative across the world even with these thorough steps.

A crucial venue for exposing and disrupting trafficking operations is the transportation industry. Traffickers exploit commercial transport systems for both recruiting and moving their victims. Often, the best, and maybe only, opportunity to save victims from their traffickers arises as they travel.

This Comment explains how traffickers utilize commercial air travel to further their operations and lays out the U.S. government’s statutory responses to human trafficking in the context of commercial aviation. In light of data showing that trafficking persists in the United States, this Comment suggests that the U.S. government should fill a gap in the statutory framework in this area. While federal statutes provide for thorough training of agency officials, law enforcement officers, and airline personnel who often engage with passengers, there is relatively little focus on formally educating the traveling public about the signs of trafficking and reporting methods. This Comment sets forth five proposals for how the U.S. government can further educate the traveling public on recognizing and quickly reporting possible trafficking incidents. These measures will create a more vigilant traveling public that is better equipped to report human trafficking by engaging highly trained personnel to monitor potential trafficking circumstances quickly and taking appropriate actions. By actively bringing the traveling public on board, the U.S. government can more effectively undermine trafficking operations that utilize commercial airlines.