Valentine flower volumes bloom despite Covid-19 pandemic

Latam Cargo - flower flights

Roses are red, violets are blue, air cargo is quick and moves flowers too!

The air cargo industry has been busy over the last few weeks, making sure loved-up couples are able to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic bouquet of flowers.

Each year, the sector sees demand for flower transportation bud ahead of February 14. This year was no different, despite the Covid-19 pandemic putting limits on air cargo capacity.

LATAM Cargo carried more than 15,500 tons of fresh flowers from Colombia and Ecuador during the 2022 Valentine’s Day season, equivalent to a 16% increase compared to the previous season (13,200 tons).

More than 260 LATAM Cargo flights took off from Bogota, Medellin and Quito, transporting fresh flowers to the main consumption destinations. In Colombia, the supply doubled from 28 to 56 flights during the peak season, totalling 9,200 tons of flowers (mostly roses, carnations and chrysanthemums) destined for Miami, from where they were distributed across North America.

In Ecuador, the company almost tripled its supply, moving from the usual 11 flights to 33 during the Valentine’s Day season. This increase allowed for the transport of more than 6,340 tons of flowers, notably roses and mini roses, to Miami (U.S.) and Amsterdam (Netherlands).

Network Airline Management NAM transported more than 1,000 tons of freshly cut flowers in the run up to Valentine’s Day from Nairobi, Kenya into the UK and Europe.

This year, Network operated four B747 freighter flights per week as well as six additional flights.

The firm’s office in Nairobi oversaw operations and each flight was loaded with more than 100 tons of Valentine’s Day flowers, including Roses and Carnations.

The aircraft flew into Liege with flowers bound for the UK and other European destinations transported via onward trucking.

Andy Walters, commercial director of Network Airline Management, said: “This has been another very successful season for us and we are proud to support Kenya’s fresh flower industry once again this year.”

Qatar Airways Cargo said that this year it transported more than 5,000 tonnes of flowers, mainly roses and carnations. The cargo carrier said it shipped flowers from all over the world with the main markets being Ecuador, Colombia and Kenya.

Flowers are also uplifted from The Netherlands, India, South Africa, Uganda, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia among other countries.

To meet the demand, Qatar Airways Cargo operated eight B777Fs from Quito with flowers destined for European and Australian markets, in addition to its scheduled four weekly B777Fs.

The carrier also added three freighters from Quito to Miami, in addition to the three regular rotations.

It also added cargo-only passenger flights and five B777Fs from Nairobi, to support Valentine’s Day shipments besides transporting flowers on its regular four weekly B777Fs.

From Bogotá, the carrier transported flowers on its two weekly B777Fs freighters.

Latam Cargo Group reported a positive performance during the 2021 Valentine’s Day season, which, together with Mother’s Day (April and May), represents the peak of the fresh flower export activity.

In 2021, the company carried 7% more flowers than in 2020, totaling more than 13,200 tons.

The airline said it had operated uninterrupted operations in Colombia and Ecuador, despite the big challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of capacity.

During the season that began three weeks before Valentine’s Day –January 18 through February 9– the carrier took off some 225 times from Bogota, Medellin and Quito with their loads of roses, spray roses, alstroemeria and gerberas from Colombia, and roses, gypsophila and alstroemeria from Ecuador to the US.

Miami is the airline group’s main transit destination for fresh flowers. From here, flowers are distributed primarily towards North America and Europe.

Compared to a regular period, in Colombia, the company carried 7% more tons per week during the Valentine’s Day season. In Quito, capacity was added to transport the flower production to Miami, increasing the number of tons carried each week by 7%, and raising capacity to Amsterdam (The Netherlands).

“It is in times of difficulty like the current pandemic that our commitment to our customers is demonstrated,” said Claudio Torres, commercial vice president for South America at Latam Cargo Group.

“Not only do we offer the best transportation options by prioritizing the use of all-cargo aircraft and adding passenger aircraft for transporting flowers exclusively. We also added new frequencies to take fresh flowers from Colombia and Ecuador to the world, thus supporting our customers’ businesses.”

Meanwhile, IAG Cargo handled 438 tonnes of flowers across its network, or approximately 18m stems, over the past few weeks.

Popular blooms included fresh cuts of roses, chrysanthemums and carnations.

The carrier offered four flights a week from Nairobi, Kenya into London Heathrow and flights from Nairobi into the US.

IAG said that flowers hit shelves within 72 hours of being cut, with temperatures between 0 – 2°C maintained from the farm to shop.

And Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics services has transported 95m stems (4,600 tons) from Nairobi and Addis Ababa in a two weeks period.

Ethiopian shipped 1,600 tons from Nairobi and 3,000 tons from Addis Ababa to Belgium, Cote d’Ivoire, Germany, Italy, UAE, the US, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and many more destinations.k.

Regarding the shipment, Fitsum Abady, managing director of Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, said: “We are glad to serve our global customers on the special occasion. We have been able to establish an effective cold chain which maintains flowers in a temperature-controlled environment throughout the transportation process and ensures efficient delivery to the intended destinations.’’


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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector.After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015.Contact me on [email protected]