Love is in the air: Air cargo braces for a busy Valentine’s Day period
27 / 02 / 2023
Each year flowers take to the air as people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by gifting bouquets to their loved ones. As a result, air cargo volumes blossom with tonnes of the perishable product flowing around the world. Here is a summary of some of the main news stories stemming from the flower peak season.
Network Airline Management transported 1500 tons of freshly cut flowers, from Nairobi, Kenya into Liege, Belgium, to meet additional Valentine’s Day demand this year.
The flower rush throughout the first two weeks of February, saw Network operate a total of 15 x B747F flights, including three extra flights to meet this year’s higher than normal demand.
With Network’s own ‘NAS NBO’ operations team overseeing the operation, each flight reached a maximum payload of approximately 100 tons of freshly cut flowers, giving an approximate total Valentine’s figure of 1500 tons.
Upon landing in Liege, the fresh roses and carnations were quickly processed, then transferred by road to various cities in Europe and the UK.
BLR reports a 17% boost in rose volumes
Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport (BLR) has reported a 14% increase in rose shipments processed compared to last year.
Valentine’s week kept BLR Cargo busy as 17.4m rose stems (589,296 kg) were processed. Top international destinations to receive these Indian roses were Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Kuwait, Manila, Auckland, New York, Lebanon, Maldives, Jordan and Dubai. BLR Cargo sent roses to a total of 15 global destinations.
On the domestic front 6.6m rose stems (178,200 kg) were processed which is a 31% increase compared to last year. Top Indian cities to receive the Valentine’s week consignment were Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Guwahati, Bagdogra, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Darbhanga, Chandigarh and Patna which are among 34 domestic destinations.
LATAM Cargo’s volumes bloom
LATAM Cargo has this year reported a 16% year-on-year increase in the transportation of flowers from Colombia and Ecuador, exporting a total of 17,910 tons.
The LATAM Group’s cargo unit doubled the usual frequency of flights from these countries to meet the demand.
The group also offered new cold storage facilities to maintain the ideal temperature required for the flowers to reach their destination in optimal conditions and increased staff numbers in Miami, the main arrival station.
LATAM Cargo international commercial director for South America Claudio Torres said: “In 2022 we increased our fleet to 16 freighter aircraft, in addition to increasing our cold storage capacity in Colombia, which this season allowed us to strengthen our offer and thus provide greater transportation capacity for this Valentine’s Day.”
More than 300 take-offs from Quito, Bogota and Medellin took place during the Valentine’s Day season, from January 18 to February 8.
In the case of Colombia, roses, carnations and chrysanthemums were the main flowers transported this year from the departments of Antioquia and Cundinamarca. From Colombia volumes were up 11% year on year “a positive result for the company considering the heavy rains that affected the production of the flower sector in the country”.
From Ecuador, more than 7,000 tons of flowers were exported, of which 80% were roses, followed by gypsophilas.
Qatar ramps up flower power
Qatar Airways Cargo has flown over 4,000 tonnes of flowers around the world over a two-week period for Valentine’s Day this year.
Exported from two main areas, Latin America (Ecuador and Colombia) and Africa (Uganda and Kenya), the flowers are travelling to 5 major international destinations: US, Amsterdam (for distribution across Europe), Australia, the Middle East and Japan.
To meet demand, Qatar Airways Cargo has added 10 additional B777 freighter flights from Nairobi to Liege and 10 additional flights from Quito to Amsterdam and Miami, on top of regular cargo and passenger flights.
Guillaume Halleux, chief officer cargo at Qatar Airways Cargo, commented: “Today, in the very demanding period of Valentine’s Day, we are proud to put our expertise and efficiency at the service of our customers.”
Miami International braces for another busy Valentine’s Day
Miami International Airport (MIA) has more flower imports than any other airport in the US.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspects more than 1bn cut flowers for insects, pests, and diseases every Valentine’s Day season from January 1 to February 15 before they enter the country and 89% of those imported flowers come through MIA.
In 2022, CBP inspected 1.2bn cut flowers during the peak season, and this year was projected to be just as busy.
MIA annually receives over 327,881 tons of flower imports valued at $1.5bn, largely because of the Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day peak seasons.
Consumers are expected to spend $25.9bn on Valentine’s Day this year, up from $23.9bn in 2022 and one of the highest spending years on record, according to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
50 years of flying flowers from Colombia and Ecuador to the US
With nearly 18,000 tons transported from Colombia and Ecuador this Valentine’s Day peak season, Avianca Cargo celebrates 50 years since its first flight loaded with flowers took off for the US.
Since the takeoff of its first freighter flight in 1973 with just 12 tons of cargo, Avianca Cargo has also consolidated its position as a leading operator in the market for this Valentine’s Day season, with around 300 flights operating from Colombia and Ecuador to the US between January 16 and February 8.
Gabriel Oliva, chief executive of Avianca Cargo, said: “The transportation of flowers requires a precise coordination along the entire value chain to ensure delivery with the highest quality standards and on time.
“This year was no exception; hand in hand with our customers, authorities and partners, a focus on efficient processes and investments in infrastructure, we not only achieved excellent results, but also broke records for the second consecutive year.”
American Airlines Cargo expects flower volumes to bloom
American Airlines Cargo is expecting its flower volumes out of Europe to blossom for this year’s Valentine’s Day celebrations.
The US airline said out of Europe it expects to fly 50% more flowers than in 2022, totalling more than 417 tonnes. The growth comes as passenger operations continue to be re-established following the Covid pandemic.
“Using its trucking network and widebody aircraft, the airline is transporting Dutch tulips and roses to the US and beyond by way of London Heathrow (LHR) and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG),” the carrier said in a press release.
Emma Oliver, American Airlines Cargo sales director for EMEA & APAC, said: “It’s always exciting to see flowers move across our network this time of year.
“Our teams are passionate about the careful handling of these shipments, knowing we play an important role for our customers and ultimately the people around the world who will celebrate Valentine’s Day with flowers we carry.”
The carrier also transports flowers from Miami International that originate in Ecuador and Colombia, countries known for the export of roses and carnations.
More than 70% of the fresh flowers that American carries from Ecuador and Colombia are roses, and for Valentine’s Day, that number increases to 90%.