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Carriers fly flowers for Valentine's Day scramble

By Staff Reports on February 13, 2014

Life is rosy, especially for an airline in the weeks before Valentine's Day. 

Airlines are flying more flowers around the world for the holiday.

LAN Cargo and its affiliates will transport more than 15 million bouquets of flowers all over the world during the four-week flower rush that leads up to Valentine’s Day – the peak season for flower exports.

The carrier moves 32 percent and 40 percent of flowers produced in Colombia and Ecuador, respectively, at this time of year, representing around 9,400 tonnes.

Between January 20 and February 9, around 200 LAN Cargo flights took off from Bogota and Medellin, Colombia, and Quito, Ecuador, tripling the average shipments with an average of 2,100 tonnes of flowers shipped daily. The main destinations of these flights are the U.S. and the Netherlands with the majority via Miami. Some flowers are also distributed to Oceania via Sydney.

"We are very pleased to be an important part of such a special day for many people,” Cristian Ureta, CEO cargo unit LATAM Airlines Group, emphasized. “There are two key dates in the transport of flowers and one of them is Valentine’s Day, when we carry more than 15 million bouquets to the world and, this year, we hope to transport 6 percent more than in 2013."

The main exporters of flowers in Latin America are Colombia and Ecuador. For both countries, floriculture is a fundamental part of the economies, representing their top non-traditional agricultural exports. The main varieties transported are red roses (more than 60 percent, tripling in demand during Valentine’s Day), carnations, dahlias and chrysanthemums.

Lufthansa Cargo is flying around 1,000 tonnes of roses to Frankfurt this year, transporting up to 90 tonnes of roses on a single flight. The amount transported will weigh about the same as 1,000 small cars.

Lufthansa connects Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya with its Frankfurt hub many times per week, upping the number of flights in the weeks before Valentine’s Day.

Preliminary figures from IAG Cargo show that flower volumes from Colombia and Ecuador have increased by about 25 percent compared to 2013’s peak season, reflecting blossoming consumer confidence in Europe.

The increase in the flowers carried from Ecuador is also related to the direct operations from Quito to IAG Cargo’s hub in Madrid that started in 2013. This is supported by a 3 percent increase in flowers being transhipped through IAG Cargo’s Heathrow hub in the first week of February compared to the same period in 2013.

“While flower shipments have been relatively stable during the economic downturn, the initial data for our LATAM cargo flows show an increase on last year,” David Shepherd, global head of commercial at IAG Cargo, said. “Flowers are one of the most resilient products we fly, and since the economic downturn we have actually seen flower volumes grow, not decrease. We now boast some of the best floral facilities in the world to help get Valentine’s flowers to market looking as fresh as the day they were picked.”

To ensure that flowers from Latin America arrive in as fresh a condition as possible, IAG Cargo has been investing in its Constant Fresh infrastructure in Madrid airport. The facilities now operate at a steady 2°C instead of 8°C, which had previously been the lowest temperature available.

IAG Cargo is looking to expand its flower-handling business in Madrid, targeting buyers in France, the Netherlands and other European centers.