Their flight had touched down after their vacation, and the Phoenix family of six was ready to head home. Brian and Renee Smith and their four kids had spent a fun time at the beach with their grandparents.
But as KNXV and CNN reported, the relaxed mood the Smiths were in came to an abrupt end once they stepped off their flight.
Brian explained: “When I walked off the plane I saw two officers standing there.”
One of the officers told him they were tipped off to check on the safety of Georgianna, Brian’s 16-year-old adopted daughter from China: “He said the flight attendant had some concerns about the person you were with.”
They added they were worried about human trafficking.
During the flight, the father was seated next to Georgianna. The family told KNXV they had only spoken briefly to the flight attendants, while ordering drinks and snacks. The teen was even asleep through most of the flight.
Brian’s wife, Renee, said Georgianna has a communication disorder, and she is quieter than most children in public. But she’s still baffled about what behavior might have set off the alarm bells for the flight crew.
The mom told KNXV: “I don’t like to accuse anyone of anything, but I don’t believe if Georgianna was a Caucasian child, I don’t believe this would have happened.”
Renee added the only thing Southwest would tell them about the flight attendant’s concerns was “it wasn’t sexual in nature.”
The Smiths told KNXV they understand human trafficking is a serious safety issue, but they’re concerned other adoptive families will have to go through what they did.
Renee said it’s something that will affect her own family long term: “We’ve never had an issue, but now we’ll always be worried something could happen.”
KNXV reported Southwest released a statement that included an apology to the Smith family. It also reassured passengers that “their flight attendants do receive training in recognizing human trafficking to put a stop to it.”
Watch the family talk about the experience below.