Human Trafficking Awareness Curriculum

Southwest Airlines operates on the guiding principles of civility, respect, and taking care of others with our collective Southwest Heart. As a Company, we have a passion for developing our People, supporting our communities, and doing the right thing—which is why we have stepped up our support of the global efforts to eliminate human trafficking.

It’s Closer Than You Think
Human trafficking is happening in our own backyard and while this issue doesn’t always involve air travel, statistics suggest that a large percentage of victims are transported via aircraft during some portion of their experience.33) Polaris. (2018, July). On-Ramps, Intersections, and Exit Routes: A Roadmap for Systems and Industries to Prevent and Disrupt Human Trafficking. Washington D.C. 

Heather Norcilus, a Learning Multimedia Developer in our Southwest Airlines University Department who worked to develop a Company-wide Human Trafficking awareness curriculum, had deeply personal feelings on the issue, as one of her good friends is a survivor of human trafficking.

“When you think of human trafficking, it’s easy to picture the victims in some far away land, but it’s an issue that happens closer than you think—including places where Southwest serves,” shares Heather.

Her friend had been trafficked out of east Texas. “She was flown to Florida with the promise of money and perks to get out of a rough background, but she was lied to,” says Heather. “It wasn’t anything she had agreed to.”

A Light for Others
Thankfully Heather’s friend has since escaped and regained her freedom. But many other victims haven’t been so lucky and are still trapped in horrible situations. Providing Employees with the resources to help identify and report trafficking, and continuing our work with Partners like Polaris is at the center of the Southwest Heart.

Human Trafficking Awareness Curriculum
We understand our Employees are sometimes on the front line of these situations and we recognize the importance of equipping them with resources on this important topic. Therefore, Southwest launched Human Trafficking awareness curriculum for all Employees in July 2019, to educate and empower Employees on the issue of human trafficking. The online curriculum, called “Combating Human Trafficking through Awareness and Action,” was developed together with our nonprofit Partner, Polaris.

The curriculum is designed to provide an overview of the crime of human trafficking and provide Employees with a game plan for addressing the issue. By the end of the course, Employees are equipped to:

  • Better understand what human trafficking is
  • Be able to identify instances of human trafficking
  • Be prepared to take action if necessary, if they suspect they have encountered  a potential human trafficking situation


The initial phase of curriculum is optional for all individual contributing Employees and required for Leaders. In the future we will introduce a second phase of mandatory training for our Customer-facing Employees that will focus on specific processes and procedures to help address this issue.

Partnering in the Fight
Our commitment to combating human trafficking is further strengthened by the work of nonprofit organizations Polaris, United Against Human Trafficking, and Rethreaded—all of whom Southwest proudly supports. Their programs and services aid in identification, rescue, restoration, and/or prevention efforts. Through monetary and ticket donations, Southwest supports these organizations in fulfilling their valuable missions and making an impact in the lives of those affected.

I am so grateful to work for an organization that is taking important steps toward this major issue, especially because it is so personal for me,” said Heather. “I am excited that this is just the starting point of future awareness and training. I believe all the work everyone is doing is so worth it and the future impact is immeasurable. In the midst of this darkness, we can be a light and a voice for those who are trapped.
—Heather Norcilus,
Learning Multimedia Developer

Polaris systematically disrupts human trafficking networks that rob human beings of their lives and freedom. Polaris’ comprehensive model puts victims at the center of what they do—helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and leveraging data and technology to pursue traffickers wherever they operate.

United Against Human Trafficking (UAHT)
UAHT is dedicated to ending human trafficking through awareness, education, and outreach. This organization identifies those trapped in cycles of exploitation and connects them to direct services. They also educate diverse communities to know and report the signs of human trafficking, while uniting the Greater Houston area against this crime.

Rethreaded is a mindful gift company that provides longterm employment and training, coupled with mental health services to survivors of human trafficking in Jacksonville, Florida. A Repurpose with Purpose nonprofit partner, Rethreaded’s mission is to renew hope, reignite dreams, and release potential for survivors of human trafficking locally and globally through business. Through our Repurpose with Purpose initiative, we upcycle, downcycle, and recycle thousands of pounds of discarded material into useful products with the help of Partner organizations.


See Footnotes: 44) International Labour Organization. (2014). Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour. Geneva, Switzerland., 55) International Labour Organization. (2017). Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage. Geneva, Switzerland., 66) Polaris. (2018, July). On-Ramps, Intersections, and Exit Routes: A Roadmap for Systems and Industries to Prevent and Disrupt Human Trafficking. Washington D.C.

We are proud to offer Human Trafficking awareness curriculum to the entire Southwest Team so that we can continue our efforts to identify any signs of human trafficking that might occur within our industry. This commitment further strengthens our mission of being good caretakers of the Customers and communities that we serve each day.
—Gary Kelly, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
—Gary Kelly, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer

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