Today on Valentine’s Day, much of the air cargo industry has reason to celebrate. If not for the chalky, sugary, heart-shaped candies with sappy phrases inscribed on them, or for that special loved one, then definitely for the seasonal boost resulting from fresh-cut flower shipments across the globe. In celebration of Cargo Facts’ adoration for anything that gives a boost to air cargo, we’ll take this opportunity to look at just how critical this market is to some of the world’s top cargo carriers.
Each year in the lead-up to Valentine’s day, carriers add additional freighter capacity out of flower gateways like Nairobi and Quito. Despite global interest in fresh flowers, production is highly concentrated, with only a few countries producing meaningful numbers of flowers for export. Ecuador’s Pichincha region and Kenya’s Lake Naivasha region are widely known as the top flower-producing regions, with flower exports from Ecuador and Kenya totaling US$360 million and US$600 million respectively, in 2016.
Although the roses and carnations are ultimately destined for retailers across Europe and North America, many make the journey via Holland’s Aalsmeer flower market. Each day Aalsmeer auctions around 17 million flowers, the equivalent of about eight cubed-out 777Fs (though, not all flowers arrive by air). Aalsmeer has long been the world’s top fresh flower auction house, and given the short 10km distance from Amsterdam Schiphol, makes transshipment to other destinations a breeze. It is unsurprising therefore, that Amsterdam has seen a flurry of flower-related freight activity in the past week.
Taking a look now at a carrier-by-carrier recap of Valentine’s Day flower haulage:
Dubai-based Emirates SkyCargo added four additional freighters ex-Nairobi, which carried an additional 350 tonnes of flowers into Amsterdam. For the full year 2016, Emirates said it carried 70,000 tonnes of flowers (We expect that this figure includes trans-shipments).
Luxembourg-based Cargolux said it also added a significant number of additional 747 freighter flights for this year’s Valentine’s Day. Combined with its regularl weekly flower services, Cargolux says it carries about 20,000 tonnes of fresh-cut flowers each year. One cubed-out 747F carries about four million flowers.
UK-based IAG Group, the consortium which owns carriers British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, bmi and Vueling, said it saw an 18% increase in flower volumes ex-Columbia and Ecuador during the first few weeks of February.
US-based American Airlines said it also experienced an uptick in worldwide flower shipments for Valentine’s Day during the first week of February. Despite having no freighters of its own, the carrier estimated it would transport between 10 and 15 tonnes of fresh cut flowers out of Amsterdam in the lead up to the commercial holiday.
Chile-headquartered LATAM Cargo transported 160 million bouquets (about 9,000 tonnes) during the three weeks preceding Valentine’s day, the majority of which ended up in Miami for further distribution across the Untied States. Freighter flights between Bogota and Miami, that typically carry an average weekly flower volume of about 325 tonnes, were carrying more than 820 tonnes per week during the first few weeks of February. Ecuador to Miami saw average weekly flower shipments more than triple, from 410 to 1,360 tonnes during the period.
Emirates SkyCargo was so thrilled about its flower shipments, it added a “RoseJet” decal to one of its 777Fs. Here is a quick video showing the aircraft’s transformation: