Aviation News

January 30, 2014

Valentine’s Day Flowers Travel the Globe on American Airlines

It will soon be that special time of year again when cargo containers laden with mass amounts of flowers are transported around the world on many cargo and commercial carriers. NYCAviation visited with American Airlines to sniff out the answers to questions about the floral transportation business. How much do they carry? Where do the flowers come from? Where do they go? What does it take to be able to transport them? The answers are below.


Over the past few years, American Airlines has seen this part of the business grow a great deal. Customers ship flowers with American Airlines because of the major advantages of speed and efficiency when using an air carrier, which is essential to ensuring that the products arrive fresh at their final destinations. American Airlines offers the best schedule and network for shipping the products into the US and also offers connections to Europe and Asia. For example, a shipment originating in Bogota, Colombia can be in the hands of a distributor or connecting to any destination in the US or internationally within 4 hours. All transportation of flowers by American Airlines is done on its commercial aircraft and therefore on regularly scheduled flights as opposed to freighter aircraft that may need to reach a minimum cargo capacity before departing.

Cooler-1198 1Miami International Airport is the major center for floral shipments in the American Airlines network handling over 50% of all shipments. For this reason, a Cool Perishables program exists in Miami to ensure freshness and on-time delivery. Features of the Cool Perishables program include pre-cooling technologies and temperature-controlled coolers that allow for confirmed space for shipments, fast and efficient handling systems and expedited USDA and US Customs clearances within the facility. The other American Airlines hubs offer cold storage facilities that aid in the preservation of the products while transiting through the hubs.

What flowers are transported?

In 2013, American Airlines shipped a total of 18 million pounds of flowers system-wide in its network. Of that total, more than half (or 9.4 million pounds) was transported through, to or from Miami International Airport, 32% (nearly 6 million pounds) through New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, nearly 9% (totalling 1.5 million pounds) through both Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, and nearly 8% (more than 1.3 million pounds) through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Primarily, the types of flowers passing through American Airlines cargo facilities are carnations, mini-carnations, roses, tropical, ornamentals and foliage. On a lesser basis are alstroemarias, hydrangeas and flower bulbs.

LD3-2076Where do they come from?

American Airlines ships the majority of flowers from Holland via Amsterdam Airport, which is the top floral product origin. In 2012, American Airlines shipped more than 7.7 million pounds of flowers from Amsterdam in total to various destinations. At the major American Airlines hubs, the makeup of shipments comes from multiple origins.

In total in 2013, at the Miami hub received 35% of shipments from Colombia, 20% from Costa Rica, 13% from The Netherlands, 12% from Guatemala, 12% from Ecuador, 3% from other parts of the US and 5% from other countries. JFK International Airport received 75% from The Netherlands, 17% from Colombia, 4% from Ecuador, 2% from other parts of the US and 2% from Puerto Rico. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport received 75% of shipments from The Netherlands, 18% from other parts of the US, 6% from Colombia and 1% from Ecuador. LAX received 50% of shipments from other parts of the US, 45% from The Netherlands, 4% from Colombia and 1% from Mexico. DFW International Airport received 35% from Colombia, 30% from other parts of the US, 25% from The Netherlands, 5% from Guatemala, 3% from Puerto Rico and 2% from Costa Rica.

During the Valentine season which lasts from February 1 to February 15, 6% of the total flower shipments (more than 592,000 pounds) was shipped through Miami International Airport, 4% (more than 265,000 pounds) shipped through JFK, 4% (more than 64,000) pounds through O’Hare, 6% (more than 96,000 pounds) through LAX and 5% (more than 71,000 pounds) through DFW.

Where do they go?

LD7 Card-095The majority of flowers shipments head to the US, Europe via London, Paris and Madrid and Asia through Japan’s largest distribution center at Fukuoka. In 2013, through Miami, 25% of the shipments went to other parts of the US, 16% to Japan, 16% to Canada, 15% to The Netherlands, 11% to the United Kingdom, 11% to Spain and 6% to other parts of the world. JFK distributed 85% of shipments to Japan, 5% to the United Kingdom, 4% to Switzerland, 4% to The Netherlands and 2% to other parts of the US and the world. O’Hare distributed 75% to Japan, 15% to other parts of the US, 6% to the United Kingdom and 4% to other parts of the world. LAX distributed 90% to other parts of the US, 6% to Canada and 4% to the other parts of the world and finally DFW distributed 65% to Japan, 32% to other parts of the US and 5% to other parts of the world.

Within the United States, the majority of the shipments are delivered to retail stores such as Walmart, Costco, etc., mom-and-pop floral stores and to companies that supply luxury hotels, restaurants and hospitals.

NYCAviation producer Mark Lawrence is a South Florida-based aviation fanatic that has been around the industry since he was a small boy. As well as being an avid photographer, he also runs his own blog.

About the Author

Mark Lawrence
Mark Lawrence is a NYCAviation staff member and a south Florida-based aviation fanatic. He has been around the industry since he was a small boy. Mark can be reached at [email protected]



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